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District 16 candidate David Shepard announces recount effort

A recount is underway for California’s District 16 senate race after Senator Melissa Hurtado won by a razor-thin margin over challenger Republican David Shepard.
David Shepard (FILE)
Posted at 10:39 AM, Dec 14, 2022

KERN COUNTY, Calif. (KERO) — California’s Senate District 16 represents parts of Kern, Tulare, Kings, and Fresno counties. The race was so tight it came down to a 20-vote difference. But the state still has two days to certify the election although Melissa Hurtado was already sworn in on Saturday.

"This is of critical importance to our democracy. This is something we have to flesh out in more detail, especially with such a tight margin," said Shepard. "With a margin that small and with the slightest potential of error to have occurred, it is really doing the voters a disservice to not inquire about this."

Shepard points to instances of inconsistent voter processing data coming from Kern as well as questions around Fresno’s curating of ballots as to what prompted the recount request.

During Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting, Kern Registrar of Voters Mary Bedard did say the elections office found 10 unopened and uncounted ballots and five of those did include votes between Shepard and Hurtado. That is why Shepard says if anything does change it shows the swearing-in of Senator Melissa Hurtado was rushed.

But, Ian Anderson, a political analyst and adjunct professor of political science at Taft College says that is because state law doe snot allow the state to withhold election certification for any reason.

When asked how someone gets sworn in without the election being certified, Anderson said: "From my understanding, as far as the results have come in, the count shows she has won. Now because election law says we must certify and move forward that is why I believe she was sworn in because of that process."

Anderson further explained the state continues to follow the legislative calendar as that certification and recount process goes on. In fact, Hurtado has already begun working, announcing Wednesday morning she is requesting ideas from constituents for this upcoming budget.

In a statement from Hurtado’s team, she said: "It is the right of any voter to request a recount in an election. I deeply respect the voters, our democratic process, and the elections officials who administer the elections and count the votes. The recount may take some time, but my campaign does not anticipate the recount changing the outcome of my election as state senator in Senate District 16.”

There is no deadline for when the individual counties involved in the recount will have to submit numbers, so it can take weeks or months really with Anderson saying it comes down to staffing. The recount will take place in the order the request was submitted, which means Tulare will begin followed by Kings, Kern, and then Fresno.

"The recount must happen in an open space available to the public and there will be a full recount of all of the ballots in each one of those counties," Anderson said. "So it will be the same process of going back and verifying the signatures and making sure they are residents of Kern County."

Anyone registered as a California voter may request a recount but because Shepard is requesting it, he and his team will be paying for it and costs will vary depending on the county.

"Folks knew it was going to be close. There should not be any room for error so it is unfortunate we are going to have to pick up the tab," said Shepard. "I think it should be the responsibility of the state or county but the laws are in place and we will do what is necessary."

Recounts typically occur in the event of a close margin of victory, following accusations of election fraud, or due to the possibility of administrative errors.

According to Ballotpedia, across the 50 states, 20 have a statutory provision allowing for automatic recounts, and 43 have a statutory provision allowing for requested recounts.

According to a report published by FairVote, 31 recounts occurred in statewide elections between 2000 and 2019. Of those, 16 were held when the original margin of victory was 0.15 percent or less. Three of the 31 recounts resulted in a reversal of the original election result.

The most recent recount that resulted in a reversal occurred in 2008 in Minnesota during a senate race. Democratic candidate Al Franken was originally down 215 votes against Republican incumbent Norm Coleman. Following the recount, Franken won the race by 225 votes.

Meanwhile, Anderson points out that California doesn’t regularly have recounts so it is hard to say how often a recount results in a change to the election outcome. But if that were to happen in this case, we would see the change reflected in policy.

"You can think of it from that standpoint of what the general Democratic party and general Republican party policies but for individuals to really know I would encourage them to go to the candidates’ profiles and that would give them a lot more information about what they can see going forward."

If the recount did change the election outcome, Anderson also does not expect this to lead to another election. Instead, affected counties must re-certify the results to the secretary of state.

Shepard also adding if the results do not change, he will accept the results but adding the race is too tight not to cover all the bases.