Melissa Griffin: Welcome to the age of ballot recounts 

click to enlarge The tobacco tax measure, Proposition 29, failed by just 24,076 votes; now those votes could be recounted. - GETTY IMAGES FILE PHOTO
  • The tobacco tax measure, Proposition 29, failed by just 24,076 votes; now those votes could be recounted.

In the weeks leading up to the June election, a campaign ad in support of the ballot’s tobacco tax measure blasted a doctor who spoke against the tax, telling voters to “Get a Second Opinion.”

And that’s just what one man is doing. 

The $1 tobacco tax, Proposition 29,  failed by the narrowest of margins — 24,076 out of 5,161,506 votes cast. Now San Francisco doctor John Maa is demanding a statewide recount, the first in California history.

Maa is bankrolling the expensive effort that will take many months and many thousands of dollars. But calling for a statewide recount doesn’t mean that it will actually occur. So far, Maa’s team of lawyers from the Sutton Law Firm is focusing on Los Angeles County. And, of course, the tobacco companies have dispatched their own lawyers.

I asked Maa’s lawyer Brad Hertz what slimy election-rigging schemes they were investigating. Hertz said they’re merely looking for errors and irregularities, not necessarily a nefarious plot by big tobacco.

So what blunders are they finding? Of 18 ballot readers in Los Angeles, which Hertz described as “something out of the Sputnik era,” at least one demonstrated irregularities when tested, miscounting more than 11 votes in each of eight precincts. One precinct had excessive “remade” ballots (a vote created when the original ballot is unreadable) and others let people casting provisional ballots submit their ballots to be counted instead of going through the process of certifying that they hadn’t voted elsewhere. 

Maa’s team is up 200 votes after weeks of painstaking counting. And if it does find enough votes in Los Angeles County to overturn the election? The tobacco companies have 24 hours to demand a recount, too, where they can focus on a more conservative county and hope to swing the results the other way. If successful, Maa could then demand another recount and mine new county for votes.

The process could take years and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. It sounds painful, but you can bet other deep-pockets are watching. In other words, this is the first recount, but it won’t be the last.

Getting a second opinion isn’t just for doctors.

Sneaky move in the Capitol

A hearing in the state Senate Governance and Finance Committee on propositions 30, 31, 38 and 39 was set for Wednesday.

It is mandated by law and supposed to be the time when the pros and cons of each measure are vetted. While the hearing went forward, at the last minute, President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg decided not to allow it to be filmed, saying it would not be a good use of public resources to fund something that can be used in campaign videos — and not in a way he’d like.

His district includes Sacramento, but to say this arrogant politician represents the capital is a massive understatement.

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Melissa Griffin

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