Measure A recount halted as opponents take county to court

Opponents of a measure on the March 3 ballot to indefinitely extend the city’s Measure A sales tax are taking the county to court over what they say is a flawed recount of ballots that began last week.

The recount was halted Monday after county officials told members of the Long Beach Reform Coalition that they hadn’t deposited enough money to continue.

Ian Patton, head of the group, said he deposited $10,854 in accordance with a county fee schedule. However Los Angeles County Counsel Mary Wickham wrote to Patton on Monday saying that because he had requested a more costly manual recount of all ballots—instead of a process that involves digital images of ballots—the cost was $11,694 per day.

The coalition protested that the higher price was not published and alleged the county gave them a “take it or leave it” offer.

The reform coalition has already spent $21,000 for several days of recounting ballots using digital images, a method Patton said in a statement is not accurate.

“The one thing that this absurd, contrived, entirely unauthorized (by the Election Code) new recount process demonstrated with regard to Measure A is that the original machine count was not accurate and may easily be inaccurate enough to change the outcome of the election,” Patton wrote Monday. “We witnessed scanned images of enough overvotes, likely misread in the original machine count, that a full manual recount of all physical ballots was clearly called for.”

After initially falling behind, Measure A ultimately passed by 16 votes out of roughly 100,000 votes cast.

The battle over the recount is significant because it tests the county’s new voting system, which allows residents to cast ballots anywhere in the county, not just in their neighborhood precinct. Ballots must now be canvassed from a much larger region, which means recounting ballots will take longer—and become more costly.

Due to Measure A’s slim margin of victory, Patton and his group have called on Los Angeles County Registrar Dean Logan to initiate a recount on his own, without forcing residents to pay.

But in a letter Monday, which was obtained by the Post, Logan spelled out his reasons for denying this, saying California Elections Code affords him the authority to initiate a recount only if reasonable cause exists to believe ballots were miscounted, and if ballot-counting boards are unable to explain the returns.

Further, a 1% post-election manual tally of ballots, which is required for all contests, “validated the accuracy of the count of those ballots that included Measure A, with no variances,” Logan wrote.

“Therefore, I do not believe that the legally required conditions exist for me to order a recount,” he said.

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