As the recount in the state Senate District 16 election enters its second week, challenger David Shepard is finding success, one vote at a time.
At the start of Tuesday, Shepard was credited with six more votes, whittling Melissa Hurtado’s lead to 16 votes.
Hurtado won her second term when the election was certified Dec. 8. The Bakersfield Democrat was sworn into office two days later, and five days after the Constitutionally-mandated start of a new term, to allow for certification of the votes.
Shepard, R-Porterville, requested a recount of Hurtado’s 22-vote victory. The counting started last week in three of the four counties in the district. Before the recount started, Kern County added net-two votes to Hurtado’s lead (from 20 to 22) — when unopened ballots were discovered. The county recertified its election.
Voters cast nearly 137,000 ballots in the hyper-competitive race.
Ballot Signature Challenges
Fresno County finished its count, posting an update Thursday. Shepard gained a net three votes — two votes more in his favor, and one vote taken away from Hurtado.
“The recount also identified a human error made at the vote center on election night, where two ballots were co-mingled. The new machine tally cleared that error, ensuring that the ballots were counted properly,” Fresno County Clerk James Kus said.
One of those votes for Shepard came from a signature challenge.
Shepard’s campaign said it successfully challenged one invalid signature from unopened voting envelopes. Returned ballots that did not have a matching signature to what the county has on file were set aside and not counted.
The successful challenge fell in Shepard’s favor.
“We’re very happy with how everything went,” Kus said. “The recount did what the recount is supposed to do.”
The Shepard campaign also said three invalid signature challenges broke its way in Tulare County — two challenges made by Shepard, and one from the Hurtado campaign. All three votes were for Shepard.
Registrar of Voters Michelle Baldwin said her office is gathering all the ballots for SD 16 to recount this week.
“We anticipate that it will take us all week to retrieve the ballots. Once the ballots have all been retrieved, we will move onto the machine recount,” Baldwin said.
Three Counties Counting This Week
Tulare County, along with Kern County, will resume its recount activities this week. The Shepard campaign says Kern is in the process of sorting SD 16 ballots.
Kings County starts activities today.
By state law, the recount continues until complete, subject to the county receiving the daily cashier’s check from the candidate requesting the recount.
State election law says anyone can request a recount. There are no automatic recounts, no matter how slim the margin of victory.
Tulare County was charging $3,500 a day. Baldwin says that figure will increase to $8,000 starting Wednesday.
Fresno County charged approximately $3,900 a day.
The Shepard campaign said Kings County is charging $5,000 a day; and Kern County $7,700.
If the recount changes the outcome, Shepard would have his money refunded.
Shepard’s campaign says the recount is funded through the campaign, with the state party helping.
However, Shepard has not reported any contributions of $1,000 or more since Nov. 4, four days before the election conclusion. Any contribution of that amount must be reported within 24 hours.
The California Republican Party has not reported any spending on the Shepard campaign since Nov. 1 — a $27,000 contribution.
Hurtado received more than $100,000 from the California Democratic Party on Nov. 8, the final day of the election.