Low leads Simitian as Santa Clara County wraps up recount

A contentious and highly-politicized recount in Silicon Valley's open congressional race has concluded in Santa Clara County with Assemblymember Evan Low leading Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian by four votes.

Low gained 11 additional votes in the recount for a total of 25,093 in Santa Clara County -- which covers 80% of Congressional District 16 -- while Simitian gained seven votes for a total of 23,775.

These results will be added to the recount results in San Mateo County, which covers the rest of the district and wrapped up its recount last week with the two candidates tied.

There were 16 challenged ballots being examined as of last Wednesday, according to San Mateo County elections officials, who did not respond to requests for an update on those ballots on Tuesday.

Overall, observers in Santa Clara County challenged 45 uncounted ballots, according to a statement by the county's Registrar of Voters. Of these ballots, elections officials ultimately determined that seven previously uncounted ballots were valid and should be included in the recount results.

The registrar also found 19 ballots from six precincts that will be included in the recount results but were not initially tallied due to what elections officials describe as "human errors" by the tabulation machine operators.


Requestor behind District 16 race recount won't be reimbursed

In a cramped, cubicle-filled room inside the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters on Tuesday, the painstaking task of a rarely seen recount was done under the gaze of onlookers.

"This recount has been a learning experience, and we will use these lessons learned to improve our processes and strengthen our quality control safeguards.

The Registrar of Voters is committed to continuous improvement to deliver the most effective and accurate elections possible for our voters," Assistant Registrar of Voters Matt Moreles said in a statement.

The completion of an unprecedented recount to replace Rep. Anna Eshoo's congressional seat comes 15 days after both counties started recounting the more than 182,000 votes cast in the March 5 primary.

Melissa Michelson is a political science professor at Menlo College.

"I think this really opens a huge Pandora’s box of folks thinking, well maybe those election results are wrong and making people question election results and wanting to know more about whose votes were counted and whose votes weren’t counted," said Michelson. 

Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo secured first place in the crowded saw. After nearly a month of see-sawing between razor-thin margins, Low and Simitian tied for second place at 30,249 votes each. As a result, all three advanced to the November runoff.

With no automatic recount provision in statewide and federal elections in California, Jonathan Padilla, a 2020 and 2024 Biden delegate and former mayoral campaign staffer for Liccardo, requested a recount. He has been paying the $24,000 a day for the recount through a super PAC called Count the Vote -- founded by people who are also linked to Liccardo.

Liccardo on Tuesday denied his involvement in the recount in an op-ed for San Jose Inside.

"I did not request this recount. Neither I nor anyone in my campaign has communicated with Padilla or his donors about the recount. Candidates and their campaigns cannot lawfully communicate with independent expenditure groups," Liccardo wrote. "The fact that Padilla is a supporter of mine is not remarkable; every independent expenditure committee in history has been created by a candidate's supporter."

Liccardo is facing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging his campaign is coordinating a "dark money" effort to fund a highly-criticized recount in the Congressional District 16 race.

"The whole thing is very unusual. Obviously, we’ve never had something like this with a three-way tie, with three people from the same party in such a big district where it could really change the outcome," said Michelson.