Early last month, The BRAD BLOG offered an exclusive special report on how a single Registrar of Voters in Fresno County, CA effectively stopped a citizen-organized attempt to confirm the results of last November's Prop 37 initiative dead in its tracks. She was able to stop an attempted post-election hand count of the paper ballots in her county by charging the proponents of the count an outrageous and seemingly arbitrary high price to carry out the count.
Now, a very similar story is being reported in regard to an attempt to confirm the results of a mayoral race in another California county where the "losing" candidate is said to have lost by just 53 votes. In that case, rather than an outrageous $4,000 per day to count the paper ballots again, as was the case for Prop 37 in Fresno, the candidate has been charged $2,000 per hour for her attempt to verify that the results of her contest were accurately reported by the computer system.
The much-watched Prop 37 initiative last November, had it passed, would have required Genetically Modified foods to be labeled as such. The measure was opposed by corporations such as Monsanto, DuPont and Hershey with a $44 million propaganda blitz against the landmark initiative in progressive California.
The proposition's loss surprised supporters of the measure, some of whom joined in a post-election effort to hand-count the paper ballots from the contest in a number of counties to ensure the secretly-tallied computer results were accurate. After hand-counting ballots in Orange and Sierra Counties, where no unusual irregularities were discovered, the effort was stymied in Fresno County by outrageously high and seemingly illegal pricing set for the "recount" by the county's recently-appointed Registrar Brandi Orth.
As we detailed, while the County Clerk in Orange had charged the proponents a reasonable $600/day for hand-counting ballots, and the Registrar in Sierra had charged just $500/day, Fresno's Orth had attempted to charge some $4,000/day. And that was in addition to a "start up" fee of $14,000 that proponents and Election Integrity advocates were also told they'd need to cough up in cash before a single ballot could be hand-counted there.
The seemingly arbitrary pricing for confirming the results in Fresno ended up putting the kibosh on the attempted statewide count. As we described in the report, the case echoed a similar attempt by Election Integrity advocates to hand-count paper ballots in a contested Special Election for the U.S. House in San Diego County in 2006. There, the county Registrar had attempted to charge approximately $1.00 per ballot (with some 150,000 cast) to confirm the results. That was in contrast to the .14 per ballot charged by neighboring Orange County for a separate hand-count not long before.
The extraordinary $2,000/hour costs being charged in Stanislaus County, however, put all of that to shame. And it underscores, once again, how the lack of standards for "recount" pricing make laughable the notion that computer-tallied paper ballots are just fine because "they can always be counted later if there are any questions about results later on."
As we learn once again in California, where the "recount" laws are actually amongst the most liberal in the country, the ability for citizens to confirm the results of secretly-tallied computer-results after they are certified is no easy feat. It's often impossible. Making the matter more outrageous, a single county clerk can effectively block the entire process...