Tuesday, November 16, 2010
A.G. Campaigns Spar Over Ballot Count as Harris Increases Lead
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
A consultant to Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley’s campaign for attorney general yesterday denied opposition charges that the campaign is trying to disenfranchise voters who cast provisional ballots in Los Angeles County.
Kevin Spillane was reacting to a release Sunday by the campaign of San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, claiming that election monitors saw Cooley supporters “crowding the computer terminals of Los Angeles election workers and aggressively attempting to have ballots disqualified” last week.
Spillane told the MetNews that the campaign was merely “trying to make sure the votes are counted in compliance with the Elections Code” to ensure “the integrity of the process.”
As for the allegation of “crowding” elections workers, Spillane said that was “simply not the case,” and an attempt by the Harris campaign “to distract from the substance of our concerns.”
He further complained that elections officials have treated the campaigns differently, allowing Harris election monitoring staff to engage in inappropriate contact with county staff counting ballots and have private meetings with elections officials.
Harris campaign manager Brian Brokaw, however, said Spillane’s complaints were “baseless.”
He claimed that the Cooley campaign had not had any monitoring presence until the end of last week, which accounted for why its representatives were not included in the “open communication between registrar staff and Harris monitors physically present at the registrar’s office.”
Efrain Escobedo, executive liaison for the Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office, said that Spillane had mischaracterized the agency’s accommodation of the Harris campaign’s request to view ballots that had been designated as invalid as a “meeting” from which the Cooley campaign was excluded.
“We have no business having private meetings with anyone,” he said, opining that each campaign has “absolutely” been subjected to the same treatment.
“Our office is currently conducted the canvass in a fair, accessible and transparent manner,” he said, emphasizing that “we are adhering to the Elections Code and regulations governing how we are to process and count our ballots.”
Escobedo also suggested Brokaw’s assertion that Cooley’s monitors were “crowding” elections officials was exaggerated, explaining that “we are constantly talking to our staff, making sure they are able to carry out their functions, and to this point, we have not heard from our staff that they are not able to do that.”
Harris Adds to Lead
The tensions between the two camps reflect the closeness of the race, as Cooley remains the GOP’s only hope of averting a Democratic sweep of the statewide races on the Nov. 2 ballot. Cooley took an early lead on election night, at one point declaring victory, but late counting gave the lead to Harris, and it has subsequently seesawed as counties in different parts of the state update their totals.
As of 3:42 p.m. yesterday, Harris had 4,127,981 votes, or 46 percent, to Cooley’s 4,096,498, or 45.6 percent, a lead of 31,493 for the Democrat.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company