Voter registrars in three counties maintain that they conducted operations properly despite allegations by congressional candidate David Harmer that they mishandled the vote count after the Nov. 2 election.
A pro bono attorney volunteering for Harmer said in an e-mail that Harmer lost to Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, due to improprieties in Alameda, Santa Clara and possibly Contra Costa counties. The 11th Congressional District includes the Lodi area.
According to attorney Catharine Baker, the San Joaquin County Registrar’s office in Stockton conducted a clean operation.
“In my view, David Harmer lost this election primarily because of vote-by-mail and provisional ballots cast at the polls on Election Day, and the problems we observed with these ballots are serious,” Baker said in an e-mail dated Friday afternoon.
“The most significant issue was the verification of signatures on vote-by-mail ballots and provisional ballots cast on Election Day,” Baker said. “Verification is the process by which registrar staff determined whether these ballots contained the signatures required by law.”
Baker wrote the e-mail, but it was posted on Harmer’s campaign letterhead and from his e-mail address.
Baker accused Alameda and Santa Clara county registrars of not allowing Harmer volunteers to challenge the validity of voters’ signatures, which she maintains is permitted by law.
Alameda County Registrar Dave Macdonald and Contra Costa County Clerk Steve Weir, however, maintain that people cannot challenge signatures. Weir said that signatures can be challenged for reasons like voters not being who they say they are or county workers aren’t following their procedures.
Macdonald acknowledges that there are differences of opinion on the legality of challenging signatures.
Nevertheless, Macdonald said, “I think the Election Code is crystal clear.”
Harmer’s camp maintains that during much of the post-election vote count, Contra Costa County allowed Harmer’s volunteers to observe signature verification from behind a glass wall several feet away, making it impossible to see clearly the signatures being compared for accuracy.
Weir replied, “As an accommodation, we’d let some people in, if they wanted limited access, but not to stand there because we would need a supervisor there.”
According to Baker, Alameda County approved ballots that had ballot signatures that didn’t match the registered voters’ signature. There were also 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, Baker said.
In Santa Clara County, spokeswoman Elma Rosas gave a brief statement: “If it didn’t have a signature at all, we can’t count it.”
Baker maintains that Harmer volunteers witnessed Santa Clara County workers of approving ballots that lacked a voter’s signature.
Despite the allegations by Harmer’s campaign, the Republican candidate from San Ramon has no intent of seeking a recount of the election results because McNerney’s lead is large enough to prevail anyway.
McNerney received 115,361 votes (48.0 percent) to Harmer’s 112,703 votes (46.9 percent).
Harmer spokesman Tim Clark said on Monday that he only hopes that reforms can be made in the vote-counting process in time for the 2012 election.
In addition to the Lodi area, the 11th Congressional District includes most of San Joaquin County, 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.