Silicon Valley Congressional District 16 re-examines uncounted ballots
The Congressional District 16 race recount continues and uncounted ballots are going under review. Photo by Jana Kadah.

Several uncounted ballots are undergoing additional review as part of the Silicon Valley congressional race recount.

Jonathan Padilla, the requestor behind the recount for California’s Congressional District 16 race to replace Rep. Anna Eshoo, said 20 ballots have been “improperly excluded from the count.” Padilla’s request comes after Assemblymember Evan Low and Joe Simitian tied for second place — both securing a spot in the runoff election against former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who received the most votes in the primary election.

Padilla said he made the request because he believes every vote should be counted — noting it’s unlikely that the Low and Simitian count ended in a dead heat — and the results should be re-evaluated. But others, like Low’s campaign, argue Padilla is a political lackey for the former mayor, and that he made the request because a two-person runoff may be an easier path to victory for Liccardo.

Boxes of ballots at being recounted to verify the final tally in the Congressional District 16 race. Photo by Jana Kadah.

Questionable ballots

There are two ways a vote can be left out of a tally: an envelope that contains the ballot doesn’t have a matching signature or has an improper address, or the actual ballot is not properly read in the machine because of voter error, like using a red pen or filling in the circles incorrectly.

This is where the attorneys for the requestor and campaigns or even observers can challenge or argue a ballot should be reconsidered.

For example, one observer who watched the recount on Thursday told San José Spotlight that he caught recounters passing on a ballot that was from the temporary housing site at Evan’s Lane because Google shows it as an empty field. The reality is dozens of homeless residents live there with a legal address. So that ballot which was initially not counted is undergoing another review.

Both counties began taking ballots out of storage and organizing them by precinct on Monday. In Santa Clara County, where the retabulation of ballots began on Thursday, Padilla said it took three hours to identify 20 ballots that he believes should have been counted.

“Again, this is only what we’ve found just this morning; at this rate, in the coming days we could find hundreds of improperly excluded ballots that weren’t counted,” Padilla wrote on social media.

Steve Goltiao, spokesperson for the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, did not provide exact reasons why those ballots were excluded from the count, but said the executives and county counsel are reviewing them. That does not mean those 20 ballots will be added to final recount results.

San Mateo County started retabulating their ballots on Friday, so there haven’t been any challenges to those ballots as of Friday morning, said San Mateo County Assistant Chief Elections Officer Jim Irizarry. However, the county did change the daily deposit required from $5,000 to $12,000.

Padilla called the move a “bait and switch,” and argued that San Mateo only accounts for 18% of the district, so it shouldn’t cost as much to recount the ballots as it does in Santa Clara County, which is also charging $12,000 a day.

Irizarry said the work San Mateo is doing is the same as Santa Clara County and that Padilla’s request was extensive. Not only did he ask for ballots to be recounted by precinct, which requires the ROVs to reorganize the ballots before retabulation, but he also asked to review unvoted ballots, vote by mail envelopes, provisional ballot envelopes and other election materials.

“The difference is going to be the number of days, but not in the setup,” Irizarry told San José Spotlight. “The setup for a machine recount is the same (in both counties).”

Padilla also slammed Low and Rep. Ro Khanna on their views of the recount. Last week, Low’s lawyers tried to stop the recount, alleging that certain deadlines were missed. Khanna called the recount a “crass political ploy” and referenced a political connection between Padilla and Liccardo, saying “a candidate wanting to overturn the will of the voters is undemocratic” in an April 9 tweet.

Orrin Evans, spokesperson for Liccardo’s campaign, previously told San José Spotlight that Liccardo believes every vote should be counted.

Clay Volino, spokesperson for Low’s campaign, said Padilla has the facts wrong.

“He’s trying to avoid answering for the dark money Super PAC that is funding this expensive recount on Sam Liccardo’s behalf,” Volino told San José Spotlight. “If Padilla really cared about protecting democracy, he would disclose his secret donors so we know who Sam could be beholden to.”

Contact Jana at [email protected] or follow @Jana_Kadah on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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