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Monday, November 15, 2010

AG's Race Gets Nasty as Harris, Cooley Spar Over L.A. Vote Counting

Posted By on Mon, Nov 15, 2010 at 9:32 AM

Kamala Harris
  • Kamala Harris

It's always comforting when the race to become the state's top law-enforcement official devolves into Jerry Springer-esque paroxysms of finger-pointing and cheap campaign tactics. But that's what appears to be happening in the final stretch of the California attorney general's race, as top candidates Kamala Harris and Steve Cooley vie over the last batches of uncounted votes in Los Angeles County

We say Los Angeles, but the atmosphere down south is starting to have a whiff of Florida circa 2000 to it. The story so far is that Harris and Cooley have been in a virtual dead heat since the general election nearly two weeks ago; uncounted absentee and provisional ballots are going to determine the race, and at various times have shown both Cooley and Harris to be in the lead. The latest tallies show Harris with a narrow lead of roughly 14,000 votes.

The current focus of both campaigns is L.A. Harris has been beating Cooley, the L.A. district attorney, on his home turf, and with 150,000 votes yet to be tallied countywide, it appears that L.A. voters could yet extend her lead. 

Yesterday afternoon, the Harris campaign put out a statement alleging that Cooley campaign workers were up to no good:

In the last 48 hours, our monitors have witnessed an aggressive new offensive on the part of the Cooley campaign which reflects a new strategy designed to disenfranchise voters in Los Angeles County. Having fallen behind in the statewide count, Cooley campaign officials were seen on Friday November 12 crowding the computer terminals of Los Angeles election workers and aggressively attempting to have ballots disqualified. Following this aggressive behavior in the field, the Cooley campaign fired off a letter to the LA County Registrar objecting to its procedures for counting provisional ballots and requested a second review of signatures on provisional ballots.

The Cooley campaign promptly responded with its own statement, which read, in part:

Harris' election monitoring staff have engaged in inappropriate contacts with county staff who are counting ballots. County staff has also held private meetings regarding ballot counting with members of the Harris staff that the Cooley election monitors were not aware of or invited to participate in until after they raised questions. 

In addition, there are serious concerns about the signature verification process and the verification of provisional ballots by county staff. These issues go to the heart of preventing voter fraud and ensuring the integrity of the ballot counting.

Nobody would argue that the Harris-Cooley race has been a model of electoral civility, but this sure doesn't seem a dignified way to wrap up the show.

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Peter Jamison


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