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TMCNet:  Mayoral ballots to get recount in Riverbank

[December 06, 2012]

Mayoral ballots to get recount in Riverbank

RIVERBANK, Dec 06, 2012 (The Modesto Bee - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Virginia Madueno is seeking a recount in the mayor's race because of "many voting-related irregularities" in the Nov. 6 election, her attorney said Wednesday.


An investigation is under way into Election Day problems that could have cost Madueno her re-election bid, said Amber Maltbie, a Sacramento-based campaign counsel, in an e-mail to The Bee.

Details on those concerns were not available. Madueno did not return multiple messages Tuesday and Wednesday for comment.

Meanwhile, Councilman Richard O'Brien is scheduled to be sworn in as mayor Monday evening. City Attorney Tom Hallinan said state election law requires that the new mayor take office based on the certified vote count.

That count had O'Brien at 3,098 votes to 3,045 for Madueno. It was announced Nov. 29 by Lee Lundrigan, clerk-recorder and registrar of voters for Stanislaus County.

Madueno's campaign had until 5 p.m. Tuesday to hand-deliver a recount request to the registrar's office. Lun-drigan said a woman representing Madueno arrived at 4:59 p.m. Maltbie said the request was there at 4:30 p.m. but employees refused to accept it until a minute before the deadline.

"No one refused anything. We specifically kept our doors open, which we normally close at 4 p.m., because it was the final day," Lundrigan said Wednesday.

She said a man had come to the elections office in the afternoon with questions about provisional ballots and the rosters, which voters sign at polling places before they are given their ballots. Lundrigan said she later spoke with him by phone and asked him if he was requesting a recount.

"He said, 'No,' he was making a public records request," Lundrigan said.

O'Brien said voters have told him they would like the saga to end. "A lot of people do not understand the last-minute request for a recount," he said.

Maltbie said the recount is needed despite Lundrigan's assurance that she personally double-checked the mayoral ballots last week before final results were announced.

"Mayor Madueno has been made aware of many voting-related irregularities reported on Election Day in Riverbank and an ongoing investigation ensues," the attorney said. "Requesting this recount is about more than just Mayor Madueno's election. Her concerns are for the constituents who may have been disenfranchised by the voting process in Riverbank and she looks forward to making certain that every vote is counted." Responded Lundrigan: "Our office looks at every single voter as important and we look at every single race in the same neutral manner and work diligently to ensure that all results are accurate." Lundrigan said the recount, which will be public, would not start until at least Monday. She could not say how long it might take.

The law requires Madueno to pay for the recount if it does not change the outcome. Lundrigan declined Tuesday to estimate how much the process will cost.

Dennis McCord, who considered a recount after losing last month's Patterson City Council election by eight votes, said he was told the cost could be as much as $2,500 per day for five days. A total of 8,369 votes were cast for the six candidates for two council seats in Patterson -- about 2,000 more votes than in Riverbank's mayoral race.

Larry Giventer, a political science professor at California State University, Stanislaus, said a recount is unlikely to change the tallies from in-person voting on Election Day and mail ballots. The county has reliable machines for counting these votes, he said, and they are tested before the process starts.

The election involves provisional ballots cast by voters whose registration status needs to be verified after Election Day. This can be more of a "judgment call" than the other ballots, Giventer said.

Lundrigan said 73 provisional ballots were not counted in Riverbank for various reasons, 20 more than the 53-vote gap between O'Brien and Madueno.

"I'd say the odds are against the people who are appealing," Giventer said.

Hallinan said that if the recount reverses the results, a voter could demand that Madueno be seated via another process in election law.

The council must discuss how to fill the seat that O'Brien will vacate in midterm to become mayor. Hallinan said the council will have 60 days to appoint someone or call an election, and the election will be mandatory if no decision is made by the deadline.

Putting the vacancy before voters could be especially costly if it is done via a special election rather than one already scheduled for other races.

The council will meet at 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 6707 Third St., Riverbank.

Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at jholland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2385.

___ (c)2012 The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.) Visit The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.) at www.modbee.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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