Republican congressional candidate David Harmer says that he lost the 11th District election to incumbent Jerry McNerney because registrar of voters offices in at least two counties didn't properly count absentee and provisional ballots after the Nov. 2 election.
"The problems we observed with these ballots are serious," San Francisco attorney Catharine Baker said in an e-mail to Harmer supporters and the media on Friday afternoon.
Nevertheless, Harmer said earlier that McNerney's lead is large enough to not warrant a recount. McNerney received 115,361 votes (48.0 percent) to Harmer's 112,703 votes (46.9 percent).
Baker said that the San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters office conducted the count properly, but she questions operations in Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties.
"Signatures are required by law on vote-by-mail ballots to ensure that the voter whose ballot is cast is the one who completed that ballot and that the person who turns in another voter's ballot is authorized to do so," Baker said.
"If poll workers do not ensure that the required signatures are on the vote-by-mail ballots delivered at the polls, we voters lose an important line of defense against voter fraud," she added.
Absentee ballots are now officially known as vote-by-mail ballots.
According to Baker, Alameda County approved ballots that had ballot signatures that didn't match the registered voters' signature, absentee and provisional ballots for which there was no registration signature on file and some absentee ballots that didn't have the voter's signature on the ballot at all.
However, Harmer attorneys and volunteers were prohibited in Alameda County from challenging whether ballots should be counted, Baker said.
In Santa Clara County, Harmer volunteers witnessed staff from the registrar's office approving ballots that lacked the voter's signature, Baker said.
In Contra Costa, they couldn't tell whether the count was being conducted properly, the attorney said.
"For much of the review, volunteers (in Contra Costa County) were only able to observe signature verification from behind a glass wall several feet away from staff, making it impossible to see clearly the signatures being compared," Baker said.
The Registrar of Voters offices in Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties were closed on Sunday and unavailable for comment.
The 11th Congressional District includes the Lodi area, most of San Joaquin County, plus Brentwood, most of the San Ramon and Livermore valleys, and the city of Morgan Hill in Santa Clara County.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org