The historically close vote in California State Senate District 16 (a 20-vote difference between the candidates) is worthy of deeper examination.
During this election I collected a large amount of data to track the Proposition 1 vote. That data is actually pretty useful for looking at this senate district vote.
Before I discuss the data, let me remind the reader of vocabulary the appears on the Estimated Unprocessed Ballots for the November 8, 2022, General Election daily updates.
Who Casts a Provisional Ballot?
Provisional ballots are ballots cast by voters who:
- Believe they are registered to vote even though their names are not on the official voter registration list at the polling place.
- Vote by mail and instead want to vote at their polling place or a vote center, but they did not receive their ballot or do not have their ballot with them (and the elections official is unable to verify that they have not returned their vote-by-mail ballot).
What Happens After You Cast a Provisional Ballot?
Your provisional ballot will be counted after elections officials have confirmed that you are registered to vote in that county and you did not already vote in that election.
You may vote a provisional ballot at any polling place in the county in which you are registered to vote, however, only the elections contests you are eligible to vote for will be counted.
Same Day Voter Registration (Conditional Voter Registration)
Same Day Voter Registration, known as Conditional Voter Registration in state law, is a safety net for Californians who miss the deadline to register to vote or update their voter registration information for an election.
Eligible citizens who need to register or re-register to vote within 14 days of an election can complete this process to register and vote at their county elections office, polling place, or vote center. Their ballots will be processed and counted once the county elections office has completed the voter registration verification process.
Visit caearlyvoting.sos.ca.gov for a list of early voting locations where you can complete the Same Day Voter Registration Process.
Need to register on Election Day? Use our polling place lookup tool to find your local polling location
The following table for Kern County is based on the state’s Estimated Unprocessed Ballots for the November 8, 2022, General Election dated (1) 11/23/2022 5:33 p.m., (2) 12/02/22 10:00 a.m., and (3) 12/5/22 5:05 p.m.
|Vote by Mail||Provisional||Conditional Voter (Reg. Prov.)||Other||Estimated Total Remaining||Last Date Provided by County|
An obvious question is: How did the Vote by Mail count jump by 250 from the 11/23/report and the 11/30 report? Did 250 Conditional Voter and Provisional ballots get reclassified to Vote by Mail? If so, why? If not, where did they com from? Let’s recall Vote by Mail, requirements.
You may return your voted ballot by
- mailing it to your county elections official;
- Vote-by-mail ballots that are mailed must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received by your county elections office no later than 7 days after Election Day.
- If you are not sure your vote-by-mail ballot will arrive in time if mailed, bring it to any polling place in the state between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Election Day
The final count posted on the state website on December 9, 2022, 4:20 p.m. is
Melissa Hurtado (Party Preference: DEM) 68,457 50.0%
David Shepard (Party Preference: REP) 68,437 50.0%
This 20 vote difference in favor of Miss Hurtado demands a closer look at the ballots that were processed. The fact that a 3000 vote lead by Mr. Shepard disappeared in about a week is suspicious. But the fact that the lead disappeared, not based on poll data, but based on unprocessed mail ballots, provisional ballots and conditional ballots is very suspicious.
To place things in perspective, observe that Kern County carried the vote for Miss Hurtado.
State Senate District 16 – Fresno County Results [100% (19 of 19) precincts reporting]
December 9, 2022, 9:19 a.m.
Melissa Hurtado Dem 1,358 28.3%
David Shepard Rep 3,438 71.7%
State Senate District 16 – Kern County Results [100% (317 of 317) precincts reporting]
December 8, 2022, 11:06 a.m.
Melissa Hurtado Dem 35,992 58%
David Shepard Rep 26,025 42%
State Senate District 16 – Kings County Results [100% (82 of 82) precincts reporting]
December 1, 2022, 4:53 p.m.
Melissa Hurtado Dem 10,786 40.4%
David Shepard Rep 15,917 59.6%
State Senate District 16 – Tulare County Results [100% (200 of 200) precincts reporting]
December 2, 2022, 11:43 a.m.
Melissa Hurtado Dem 20,321 46.8%
David Shepard Rep 23,057 53.2%
Another concern is related to the number of precincts available for this election. The following information is based on an analysis I prepared in Excel. A comparison with the special election in 2021 seemed reasonable.
|Precincts||Registered Voters||Registered Voters per Precinct|
The fact that there were 1336 fewer registered voters for this election than in 2021 would imply that fewer precincts were actually needed. (Of course, the number of voters who vote by mail would probably reduce that number further. I haven’t started that analysis yet.) Instead, 35 precincts were added for 2022 and the average number of voters per precinct dropped from 601 (2021) to 572(2022).
The real question is how many Kern County residents took advantage of the Same Day Registration option at these precincts? There were at least 554 as indicated on the report of 11/23/2022.
Now that I’ve opened Pandora’s Box, let’s look at the precincts for the other counties represented in Senate District 16.
|Precincts||Registered Voters||Registered Voters per Precinct|
Wow! All three counties increased the number of precincts by more than 100%, but only Tulare County saw an increase in number of registered voters. There is clearly an impact on the number of registered voters per precinct. So maybe this problem is bigger than it appears at first glance.
Senate District 16
This still leaves us with big questions about the vote results in District 16. Kern County carried the shift from Shepard to Hurtado. The other counties were finished by at least 12/5/22 (Fresno must have submitted their final form on 12/9 but their 12/5 report contained 0’s across the board.) It would help if the state would post all of the daily Unprocessed Ballots updates on their website. And I’m sure an audit of the daily count for the District 16 votes will offer some insight into the real issues associated with the final 20 vote advantage for Miss Hurtado. Of course, precinct-level data would be best.
I encourage everyone to get more involved in the election process, Simply “casting your vote” is not enough. I have said this before. See My 2020 Vote: A Vote for America’s Future where I said:
The ideal of a democratic republic is often referred to as The American experiment. This experiment will succeed or fail based on the activity or inactivity of this nation’s citizens. If voters simply check a box and submit their ballot, they are inactive. A voter’s responsibility begins after they submit their ballot (i.e. at the poll, in the mail, …). To be classified as active, a citizen should track the officials who received their vote. For instance, if your Congressman is not supporting the initiatives he or she promised to support, contact him or her.
As always, “Good night and good luck.” (Edward R. Murrow)
Joe, thanks for the breakdown. My brother-in-law is David Shepard. The provisional ballot “miscount” and the cured ballot dumps did not match any polling data or historical data for the area. The County of Fresno clerk’s office told us that even though they counted some cured ballots delivered past the cutoff deadline, they would not count cured ballots that David’s team dropped off past the cutoff deadline. Somehow they could use their own discretion on how and when to count. It is very confusing and frustrating to see how it took 30+ days to count the votes in D16 and the election results flipped in the last few days by a handful of provisional/cured ballots.
It becomes more and more difficult to trust the results when the processes in place to get to the results become more obscure and confusing. How can we say “free and fair” if we can’t prove “free and fair?”