Claiming Kings County did not properly review invalid signatures on uncounted ballots, state Senate candidate David Shepard is threatening litigation.
Shepard, R-Porterville, lost the Senate District 16 campaign to incumbent Melissa Hurtado, D-Bakersfield, by 22 votes. He requested a recount in the four counties that comprise the district — Kings, Fresno, Tulare and Kern counties.
In the six weeks since the recount, Shepard has picked up eight votes to reduce Hurtado’s lead to 14 votes — not enough to overturn the election.
During Tuesday’s Kings County Board of Supervisor meeting, Shepard said the county’s election chief did not engage in a proper review of uncounted ballots.
“The hostilities have started from Kings County initially. So all I ask is that we take a step back. We look at these ballots one more time. We will review these as an opportunity to really quelch any proceedings going forward that could go into pending litigation,” Shepard told the board during public comment.
Shepard’s advisor, former state Sen. Andreas Borgeas of Fresno, asked the county to remedy mistakes in the recount process.
“There should be no need for the Sheppard campaign to litigate this matter in the courts when the registrar has an opportunity to correct the glaring mistakes at this very time,” Borgeas said.
During the recount, the Shepard campaign reviewed approximately 150 such ballots. They claim that Registrar of Voters Lupe Villa did not properly judge whether the signatures were valid, and thus should be counted.
The supervisors discussed the matter in a closed session, without reporting any conclusions in the open session.
Too Fast to Judge
Borgeas told the board all signatures should be presumed valid.
“Here, the King’s County registrar could not have complied with California’s mandatory review criteria,” Borgeas said.
Borgeas said each party had approximately 10 seconds to examine questionable ballots, challenging 29. Villa then took an average of 49 seconds to determine if the challenge was valid, according to Borgeas. All the challenges were rejected “without providing rationale, reasoning or criteria used to reach a decision,” Borgeas said.
“It is clear the registrar could not have complied with California’s mandatory review criteria,” Borgeas said.
Borgeas said Villa did not follow the law when rejecting all signature challenges.
“The registrar is disenfranchising the vote in Kings County,” Borgeas said.
All mail-in ballots must have a signature on the envelope. If the signature is missing, or does not match what the county has on file, the ballot is not counted. The county sends out a “cure” letter to the voter to fix the signature issue. If the ballot is not cured, it is not counted.
Villa did not respond to a request for comment from GV Wire.
Count Continues in Tulare, Kern
Tulare County is continuing to sort ballots for a manual inspection, then a possible machine recount.
Kern County is gathering ballots to review invalid signatures. Kern initially completed a portion of the recount as requested by the Shepard campaign. Hurtado’s campaign then requested its own recount. She did best in Kern County, winning 58% of the vote for the portion of the district in the county.
Fresno County finished its counting weeks ago. So did Kings County, but with the question of signature verification, the Shepard campaign says the recount is not finished there.
Hurtado Gets Married
Away from the recount, Hurtado announced that she married Gurbet Tekinbas on Dec. 27.
“We decided we were just going to make it happen and let nothing get in the way. We married in Istanbul — where we met,” Hurtado told GV Wire.
The couple had an adventure getting the proper marriage paperwork in Turkey.
‘The marriage bureau was out of licenses for the rest of the year. We tried a second one and they said it was our lucky day because they only had 2 left for the year. The last one available was for the same day at 9 p.m. We had just enough time to rush to a salon, change our attire, and grab dinner. The officiant came to Sultanahmet Square and married us there,” Hurtado said.
Hurtado said “work” is the honeymoon.
“First step (is) getting married. We are figuring things out as we go,” she said.