Will there be litigation over issues with SLO County’s ballot recount?

December 21, 2022


The Paso Robles woman who requested a recount and inspection of ballots received in the District 2 San Luis Obispo County supervisorial race is considering litigation because of possible overcharging and alleged obstructive steps Clerk-Recorder Elaina Cano has taken, Darcia Stebbens said.

Supervisor Bruce Gibson defeated challenger Dr. Bruce Jones by just 13 votes in the November election, prompting Stebbens to request the recount. Since the clerk’s staff began examining ballots on Monday, Stebbens has asked staff to tally two previously uncounted ballots.

During the recount process, observer Richard Patton discovered a ballot that had been mailed in time but rejected by county staff. In ordered to be counted, ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 8, election day.

However, county staff rejected the ballot with a Nov. 8 postmark because it also had a Nov. 9 postmark. The ballot had taken the typical route for SLO County mail. It was dropped in a box in Paso Robles on Nov. 8, sent to a post office in Santa Barbara County where it received a second stamp, and then delivered to the county building in SLO.

SLO County Clerk Recorder Elaina Cano

Cano’s office agreed to count that ballot while refusing to approve another uncounted ballot.

The second contested ballot was sent from a voter who could not sign her name as she had in the past, because she could no longer hold a pen correctly, Stebbens said. The woman had a witness confirm her signature. However, election staff rejected the ballot because the woman’s signature did not match the one on file at the county.

In addition to issues with ballots, Stebbens believes Cano is “slow rolling” her records requests and harming her ability to obtain public information about the initial count.

Stebbens is also concerned that Cano is overcharging her. Cano is requiring Stebbens to pay $1,009 a day for her salary and benefits, based on Cano spending eight hours daily working on the recount. However, Stebbens says she can provide examples, including during the primary, of Cano attending to other duties while also charging Stebbens.

During the primary, Cano charged Stebbens approximately $56,000 for the recount of District 4, with 20,899 ballots, at a cost of $2.68 a ballot.

For the current District 2 recount, Cano has bumped the estimated cost of counting 23,431 ballots to $80,262, at a cost of $3.43 a ballot, or 27% more than four months earlier.

In Kings County, elections staff is currently conducting a recount of the 27,125 ballots cast in the District 16 California Senate race, at an estimated cost of $62,743, according to Kings County election staff. At a cost of $2.31 a ballot, Kings County is charging 48% less per ballot than SLO County to perform a recount.

Stebbens is discussing how to move forward with a Sacramento-based attorney.

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A dependable election this county full of seniors is beginning to sound hilarious. No Pun Intended.