SLO County District 2 recount requested, clerk’s office under fire

December 13, 2022

SLO County Clerk Recorder Elaina Cano


A recount of ballots in the District 2 San Luis Obispo County supervisorial race in which incumbent Supervisor Bruce Gibson defeated challenger Bruce Jones by just 13 votes was officially requested on Monday afternoon.

Paso Robles resident Darcia Stebbens submitted a letter to County Clerk-Recorder Elaina Cano requesting a recount and ballot inspection for the District 2 election. Stebbens requested the recount on behalf of Jones, but not necessarily at his request, she stated.

Stebbens is the same person who requested a recount earlier this year on behalf of outgoing Supervisor Lynn Compton, who lost her District 4 race to Arroyo Grande Councilman Jimmy Paulding. Elections officials conducted a hand recount of the ballots in the District 4 race, which produced the exact same tally as the initial count that was done by machines. Paulding defeated Compton by 639 votes.

In that recount, the clerk recorder refused every request for a challenge and also refused to provide documents and information, Stebbens said. Because of issues at the last recount and throughout the election, Stebbens will have an attorney on hand to deal with conflicts with the Clerk Recorder’s Office.

In the District 2 race, Gibson received 11,722 votes, or 50.03%. Jones garnered 11,709 votes, or 49.97%.

SLO County Supervisor Bruce Gibson


A recount is unlikely to change the result in the District 2 race unless uncounted votes are tallied or challenges are made and accepted. There were hundreds of mail-in-ballots that arrived after the cutoff date, which were not counted.

In addition, several poll workers ordered voters to turn their mail-in-ballots at the polls without the required envelopes, which led to multiple ballots not being tallied. More than a dozen voters contend their ballots were not counted because of human error at the clerk’s office.

The Clerk Recorder informed the Tribune that only two ballots were received without envelopes at the polls in District 2, along with 11 mail-in-ballots without signatures, 112 ballots that were mailed late or received after the cutoff date, and 93 ballots with challenged signatures.

Stebbens is requesting an inspection of the ballots and a hand recount, along with relevant materials including unvoted ballots; duplicate ballots; ballot envelopes; vote-by-mail ballots without envelopes; ballot envelopes with missing or non-matching signatures; ballots postmarked after Nov. 8; and ballots received after Nov. 15.

The Paso Robles resident also requested documents relating to more than 300 provisional ballots the SLO County Clerk-Recorder’s Office discovered in late November after ordering election observers to leave the viewing area, an apparent violation of state law.

In response to a federal law enforcement request, the SLO County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit conducted an inquiry into concerns about the clerk reporting an additional 332 provisional ballots several weeks after the election, which at the time county staff claimed were found in a cabinet at the clerk’s office, Stebbens said.

However, Clerk-Recorder Elaina Cano explained it was a spread sheet error and that no new ballots were found. Shen then defended her removal of observers that day.

“There were no provisional ballots that were mysteriously discovered and added to the count or secretly produced after observers were ‘dismissed,’ ” Cano wrote in her response to the district attorney’s office.

Dr. Bruce Jones

The District Attorney’s Office did not find evidence that would contradict Cano’s explanation regarding the 332 ballots and has closed that portion of the investigation, according to a press release.

Cano also argued that she had a legal right to bar observers from watching the processing of provisional ballots.

“Moreover, observers are not entitled by law to observe the processing of provisional ballots, which includes inputting confidential voter information that is provided by the voter into the Elections Management System to determine eligibility,” Cano wrote in her response. “Observers are only entitled to observe the canvass of the vote-by-mail ballots.”

The District Attorney’s Office did not agree.

“I want to clarify with you and your staff whether observers can watch the ‘processing’ of provisional ballots,” Deputy District Attorney Kenneth Jorgensen responded to Cano. “I want to clarify that when these provisional ballots are processed tomorrow, observers will be permitted to be present and observe this process in the same manner as the mail-in ballots.”

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

If Jones had beat Gibson by a few dozen votes, I suspect there would be far less concern for every little clerical detail. Sometimes the other candidate just wins – that’s democracy, do better next time.

What’s real in this potpourri?

1) “several poll workers ordered voters to turn their mail-in-ballots at the polls without the required envelopes”. “The Clerk Recorder informed the Tribune that only two ballots were received without envelopes at the polls in District 2”. Why were these ballots accepted? Why the possible numerical difference?

2) “93 ballots with challenged signatures”. These signatures can be argued.

3) “11 mail-in-ballots without signatures, 112 ballots that were mailed late or received after the cutoff date”. Don’t think anything can be done about these ballots. Post marks are post marks, and received by dates are received by dates. Unsigned is unsigned.

So, it appears there is a basic recount and there are 95 ballots to squabble over.

“112 ballots that were mailed late or received after the cutoff date”. Why should a persons vote not be counted due to something out of their control? If they mailed it with a proper postmark a delayed delivery is not their fault. How about we require the vote count be done by a certain date and with a certain time frame between the final count and the certification. As with this election, one day between final count and certification should be allowed.

Believe it’s state law that there is a delayed delivery cutoff date. I was trying to calculate the number of ballots that can be legally disputed. Looks to me like the number is 95 and that each one will have to be argued. I don’t think either candidate has “won” yet.

The recount must include the “administrative error” ballots and those that have the appearance of a “administrative error” for showing up late while having been post marked on time. If every vote isn’t treasured then the election process is a mockery to democracy.

What about ballots that don’t have a verified chain of custody? Such as the mystery ballots found weeks later, what in a box under a desk or such. Seems any ballots without a proper chain of custody should be invalidated, but it should also be investigated as to why that happened and corrected so it doesn’t happen again.

This recount is an excellent opportunity to review the entire process. Each candidate should have an attorney present and the Clerk should have her county counsel present. Any contested ballot should be decided based upon the law, unresolved disputes need be adjudicated.

The Clerk has made two admissions of clerical error that may have changed the results: she stated that a clerical error prevented a voter from tracking their ballot – was it or was it not counted? Also she reported a spread sheet error in reporting the number of ballots still to be counted – loosing track of ballots is a critical omission. Finally, the DA disagreed with the Clerk’s call to clear the ballot processing room.

Were the ballots postmarked on time but delivered after the deadline. What was the reason they arrived late? Were they truly In transit or merely sitting at the Post Office not being retrieved. Those ballots not counted because of faulty signatures should be scrutinized.

Finally, the Clerk should search for a highly qualified elections administrator to assist her through the next four years. This woman needs help.

Something seems “off” with this election and Elaine Cano. There are too many irregularities. I am grateful to Daria Stebbens for filing for a recount. Now lets sit back and see how long the recount takes, hopefully not into 2023

That’s right, Cano threw the election! Never mind the fact that she had ABSOLUTELY no reason not to follow the letter of the law. What? Gibson’s campaign paid her? She has a new car? She has a new house?

Why in the world would the clerk-recorder not follow protocol? In fact, I believe she has done so. Voters who mailed their ballots in late or brought ballots to the polling precincts without signed envelopes are dumb asses and deserved to disenfranchised.

What is the major malfunction with California Republican voters? They can’t simply fill out a mail-in ballot and then take it to the post office or the county drop boxes?

In Utah, EVERY Republican voted by mail, and their candidates won across the board. So stow the conspiracy theories. They are truly ridiculous.

Congratulations, Mr. Supervisor. Hopefully a worthy challenger will face you next time and not a carpetbagging Debbie Arnold clone.

Wow! Take a deep breath and relax.

No, probably not.

Not when the democracy, which my grandfather, father, uncles, and brother fought for, and in some cases died for, is under siege from opportunistic politicians. Donald Trump lost by SEVEN MILLION votes and still contests the election. Kari Lake lost by SEVENTEEN THOUSAND votes and still contests the election.

I’m certainly OK with Mr. Jones requesting a recount, but when all this conspiracy theory crap is alleged against duly appointed and elected civil servants at the county, I become worried that Benjamin’s Franklin’s statement about keeping our democracy is now realized.

Our democracy is under attack as you put it by BOTH sides if you’re honest and not blinded by ideologies. Look beyond the partisanship of both. Especially those on the left.

“Especially those on the left.”

Projection, for the right it’s always projection.

Also “Wisdom, civility, perseverance, and helping each other should the genesis of all of that is before us. What will your choice be? To help or to continue to divide, blame and prove your ignorance.”

In this case projection is fact. Some should practice what they preach when it comes to wisdom, civility, perseverance, tolerance, freedom of opinion and speech which leads to an intelligent debate. My choice is always for a robust debate. Some should also search their own comments for division and ignorance before casting blame and hypocrisy of one’s own iniquities.