UPDATED: Recount Changes 0 Ballots in First 16 Santa Ana Precincts; If Correa’s Not Prepping for a Court Case, He’s Taking a Dive

Recount, 1st Supe - Live Stream 2015-0209-1325

Monday lunchtime livestream from the room where the recount magic takes place.

UPDATE:  This is what happens when you write a post the night before and set it to go off in the morning.  Sometimes things have changed overnight.  (Link is to today’s story worth reading in OC Political.)  Or, in this case, it changed last night, just after one checked the papers for the last time.  Correa is NOT  following the brilliant strategy laid out below; rather, he’s following the brilliant strategy laid out last week to follow the path of the Measure J proponents in deep interrogation of provisional ballots.  The problem with the brilliant strategy now being employed is that the likely “improprieties” would be less in the provisional ballots that Correa has yet to examine than with the absentee ballots that Correa will now apparently not address — with the result being that IF the Janet Nguyen machine is somehow cheating with absentees, it may not make it into any court case.

UPDATE 2:  This is the scene at the ROV’s office as of about 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Recount, 1st Supe - Live Stream 2015-0210-1500

Those people you see in SEIU (Service Employees International Union) purple are from the USWW — the Union of Service Workers West.  These are people that Lou Correa should remember not to betray: all they need is a fair shake.  The man in the gray shirt at the right looks like he might be (I’m not saying that he is) Election Law Superattorney Fred Woocher, who has reportedly been representing Correa.  If that’s Woocher, then unless he’s doing it pro bono — which he might be — the cost of the recount itself is not nearly the most expensive bill that Correa will be facing.

Anyone with tips on just what they’re doing there today and how, contact OJB via this Yahoo account: mail2greg4-thejuice.

Of the 101 precincts to be recounted in the First Supervisorial District race, Lou Correa’s recount locomotive has now chugged through 16 of the 88 that contain more than a handful or two of votes to be counted — and literally nothing has changed.  (Those remaining 13 precincts among them contain only 180 ballots combined; we can think of them as a single 89th precinct. which would be one of the smallest, for purposes of estimating our progress.)  All of the precincts come from Santa Ana.  To answer the other questions you may have about what remains to count that are not addressed here, you might want to look at the PDF of the certified Statement of Votes yourself.

(A note to those unfamiliar with my non-existent to antagonistic relationship with Correa within local Democratic politics: we have not been in touch about these matters, directly or by proxy, although I did at one point want to do a “ballot inspection” recount if he did not, because I consider political corruption anywhere in OC to be my problem to solve if I can.  You should feel the same way.)

Does “literally nothing has changed” mean that the Correa recount train is headed for the scrap heap?  Not necessarily.  First, we haven’t yet gotten to the votes that Correa hopes and expects would change: the ones in Greater Little Saigon.  Some of, but not much of, Santa Ana falls into that category, and the Santa Ana precincts where Correa lost to Andrew Do are now almost all behind us.  We’re now coming to precincts where Correa beat Do by margins including 308 to 27 (precinct #0068620), 435 to 76 (#0068620), and 142 to 18 (#0068629).

(If that seems impressive to you, check out some of Do’s margins in his hometown of Westminster: 600-278, 666-346, and 648-295 in precincts 0039614-16, with more not much better.  Youch!)

Having paid the piper. Correa gets to call the tune — in this case the order in which precincts are tabulated.  Even though Correa is really interested in challenging illegitimate votes in Little Saigon rather than Santa Ana, his beginning with Santa Ana ballots is clever.  Once they’ve been recounted, they can’t be recounted again.  And while I have not been in the counting room, nor do I have reports from those who were there, it makes sense that the Do forces do not want to question the Santa Ana ballots too closely, because whatever standards of inquiry they impose would be hard to argue against when Correa wanted to apply them to Little Saigon ballots.  So if there are any irregularities to be found in the Santa Ana ballots, Do is likely to let them pass — and if his people read this and they decide to ramp up the challenges to overdrive today, they might be very sorry later that they did so.

What I really like about Correa’s decision is this: if he were planning to bail early on the recount, he would have started with the precincts that went most strongly to Do, and then given up pretty quickly if they didn’t start to produce results.  All votes have to be recounted if the certified results are to change, so this makes it more likely that Correa plans to push through until the very end.  And what Do is doing at this moment is called “sleeping on his rights”; if he did want to argue later before a court that “something was rotten in Santa Ana,” the court would presumably tell him that he really should have brought it up during the recount when he was supposed to.

So Correa gets an “A” for tactics there, but he still has an incomplete grade for strategy.  It may well be that, absent truly overwhelming evidence that a ballot was cast improperly, the Registrar of Voters Office isn’t going to disqualify a single ballot.  (It has certainly shown that it was heading that way during the first — and only — day of the Bruce Broadwater recount against Bao Nguyen for Garden Grove Mayor, after which Broadwater gave up following a day of no changes.)  What that suggests is that Correa — after having “immunized” all of the ballots that he wants to keep Do from ever challenging, which might include about a third of the precincts in Garden Grove and almost none of the Fountain Valley, Midway City, and Westminster precincts — may change his tactics and strategy substantially.

Tactically, Correa may pull out all of the stops and start challenging questionable ballots with overwhelming force.  But that probably would not be enough.  His strategy should probably match that of the opponents of Measure J — gathering evidence, including photographic evidence of signatures and postmarks if it is allowed, that he will eventually bring into court.  The minimum he’d want to do in that case would be to overturn the election results.  If he’s ambitious — and he should be — it may involve court-ordered independent investigations and monitoring of future election operations of the Janet Nguyen machine’s activities.  If the sorts of allegations that he mentions in his letter are true, then they need to be brought to a complete stop — and that will require the exertion of outside force.

So far as I can tell, none of Correa’s people today had the camera equipment that I would have hoped to see.  But that’s not necessarily a problem yet.  It won’t become one until the counting of Santa Ana precincts is done, the counting of Garden Grove precincts (all beginning with #00146) #s 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, and maybe 21, 22, and 26 is done, and there is almost nothing left but precincts that went anywhere from weakly to overwhelming for Do.  At the present pace — something which the Correa campaign can adjust by engaging in less or more quibbling — that should happen right around the end of the day on Wednesday.

So: if we get through precinct #0014610 or so at the end of a work day, and still no one from the Correa team is there with the means to preserve evidence for a court case, then he’s either putting all of his chips on Westminster and deciding not to inquire into the 1200-or-so vote margin that Do racked up in Garden Grove precinct 11 through 27 or I think he’s taking a dive.

I hope that he isn’t and I think that he shouldn’t.  My main interest here is making sure that Little Saigon’s elections — including those avalanches in Westminster precincts that we saw above, either are legit or become legit.  I understand that, despite his protests to the contrary, Correa’s primary interest may be in getting himself back onto the Board of Supes.  If he wants to stay there, though, he will need to make sure that the locomotive pulling against him is running clean.

And if Andrew Do reads this post and decides to start taking photos of signatures on the ballots of the precincts that went to Correa, my guess is that no one would be made happier by that move than his opponent — who can also be happy that Do has already blown one day. I’d still rather be in Do’s position, but I wouldn’t feel too bad to be in Correa’s — if he plays his cards right.

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.)