Costa Mesa: If You Didn’t Read My Post from Yesterday, You May Not Know Why You Need Not Panic Today

Jim Righeimer added 94 votes to his margin over Jay Humphrey today.  Does that mean that it’s “Game Over, Man”?  Nah,

If that’s what you thought, you didn’t read my post from yesterday.  I’m not talking about my piece on the Costa Mesa race.  I’m talking about my piece on how the Registrar of Voters counts the votes in this election.  Yesterday, today, and tomorrow are “conservative days” — and Riggy padding his advantage is no surprise.  Nor will it be a surprise when, next week, Humphrey comes roaring back.

So if you’re rooting for Humphrey, and you’re panicking at this turn of events: stop.  Game Not Over, man.  Here’s why.

Game Over, Man!

See, they’re fighting space aliens, and they’re getting swamped, and Bill Paxton says “Game Over, Man!” Don’t be like that.

Let’s start with the results just posted today, Thursday, Nov. 6.

CITY OF COSTA MESA Member, City Council
Number To Vote For: 2
Completed Precincts: 70 of 70
  Vote Count Percentage
KATRINA FOLEY 7,154 26.3%
* JIM RIGHEIMER 5,851 21.5%
JAY HUMPHREY 5,739 21.1%
LEE RAMOS 4,042 14.9%
AL MELONE 1,156 4.3%

Here are the Absentee Only results for Costa Mesa, the ones that came out at 8:05 p.m. Tuesday, including pretty much all absentees that came in by Nov. 1, but not those of Nov. 3 and 4.  Why could the totals for those ballots be published so early, just five minutes after the polls closed?  It’s because they had already been tabulated!  The OC Registrar of Voters’ Office counts as many absentees as possible before Election Day, so that they don’t slow down the count of votes cast at the polls.

CITY OF COSTA MESA Member, City Council
Number To Vote For: 2
Completed Precincts: 0 of 70
Vote Count Percentage
KATRINA FOLEY 2,940 25.5%
* JIM RIGHEIMER 2,628 22.8%
JAY HUMPHREY 2,364 20.5%
LEE RAMOS 1,658 14.4%
AL MELONE 525 4.6%

Now, here are the numbers that we say at the end of the day — which now include all ballots cast at the polls on the machines, as opposed to provisional ballots or paper ballots.  They also count Vote-by-Mail ballots that came in on time, but too late to count in advance, and provisional ballots that were dropped off at the polls.  As you can see: there’s a big difference in the Righeimer vs. Humphrey “race within the race”:

CITY OF COSTA MESA Member, City Council
Number To Vote For: 2
Completed Precincts: 70 of 70
Vote Count Percentage
KATRINA FOLEY 6,667 26.4%
* JIM RIGHEIMER 5,414 21.4%
JAY HUMPHREY 5,393 21.3%
LEE RAMOS 3,734 14.8%
AL MELONE 1,071 4.2%

Now, if you want to know how just people who voted at the polls voted on Tuesday, you need to do a little subtraction: you subtract that first report from this one here.   Here’s what that result — which isn’t directly available from the Registrar — looks like:

 Total Votes at Polls (by machine)  Vote Count at Polls % at Polls
KATRINA FOLEY 6,667-2,940 = 3,727
* JIM RIGHEIMER 5,414-2,628 = 2,786
JAY HUMPHREY 5,393-2,364 = 3,029
LEE RAMOS 3,734-1,658 = 2,076
TONY CAPITELLI 1,344-614 = 730
AL MELONE 1,071-525 = 546

You can see from the last two rows, for example, that Rita Simpson did much better in vote-by-mail ballots (middle number) than in machine-counted ballots on Election Day (boldfaced number on the right) — perhaps because by that time more people who might have been inclined to vote for Christopher Bunyan along with Katrina Foley realized that that vote ought to go to Jay Humphrey.

So now take a look at those top three rows.  In Vote-by-Mail ballots, it was Foley 2,940, Riggy 2,628, and Humphrey 2.364.  But in Election Day ballots counted by machine, the order was Foley with 3.727, then Humphrey with 3.029, followed by Riggy with 2.786.

Why does that matter?  Because, of the four categories of ballots counted after the election, those vote-by-mail ballots arriving on Nov. 3 and 4 are counted first!   And those voters have the most in common with the other VBM voters who gave Riggy his lead.  To quote from yesterday’s post, my understanding is that:

  • The vote-by-mail (VBM) votes sent late will tend to skew conservative, though closer to the Election Day totals because people waited to mail them in.
  • The provisional (PROV) votes will tend to skew liberal because of who tends to have to vote using them.
  • The vote-by-mail-returned-at-polls (VBMRAP) votes tend to be closer to the Election Day totals than regular VBMs.
  • The Election Day paper ballot votes tend to skew towards both the left and right extremes that don’t trust our voting machines.

That link also tells you how many votes overall were in each category.  Overall, about 40,000 VBMs, 38,500 provisionals, 66,000 VBMRAP ballots, and 5,800 paper ballots.  Of course, Costa Mesa is a small part of the whole county, so a small portion of each category will add to Costa Mesa’s totals.  And the precincts tend to come in clumps.  Yesterday was a slow day for Costa Mesa: Riggy added just 2 votes to reach 5,416, while Humphrey added just 5 votes to reach 5,398.

Today was much busier.  Riggy added 435 votes to reach 5,851, while Humphrey added 341 votes to reach 5,739.  That probably used up all of Costa Mesa’s precincts, and tomorrow will be more like Wednesday.  It turns out that ALL of the Later Timely VBMs were counted by today.  And they started on the VBMs Returned at Polls.  So things will continue in a conservative directly, though possibly less drastically, Friday, and a day or two afterwards with less force — Riggy likely reaching his high-water mark — before moving back the other way, to whatever extent they do.

Don’t get me wrong — today was a good day for Riggy.  Between the two of them, they received 4,992 votes in that first report; Riggy got 2,628 of them and Humphrey got 2,364 — a  margin of 52.6% to 47.4%.  And today, Riggy’s total was 56.1% to Hunphrey’s 43.9%.  That’s a healthy gain, and it may suggest something of the results of those 66,000 VBMRAP ballots.  But it’s not a disaster.  Foley, by the way, picked up 487 votes today — more evidence that this voting pattern matched that of the earlier VBMs.)

While provisional votes can be challenged, they are generally counted at this stage — and Humphrey’s share of the 2-person total there should be much higher than 56.9%.  Riggy’s voters mostly haven’t moved, don’t lack ID, etc.  So if Costa Mesa has  lot of those, don’t be surprised to see Humphrey take the lead.  When it comes to paper ballots, though, let me ask you something — who do you think is going to be more afraid of voting machines (and the tampering they may allow) — Riggy’s supporters or his opponents?  My guess is that, to the extent that Costa Mesa has many hand-ballots, Humphrey will claim a much larger share of the votes cast for either one of the two than Riggy will.  And in this kind of race, that last day or two could decide everything.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)