More than 20 previously uncounted ballots discovered during California's Congressional District 16 recount

Grace Hase, The Mercury News on

Published in Political News

SAN JOSE, Calif. — As the recount in the Congressional District 16 race entered its fourth day, more than 20 ballots excluded from the original count in Santa Clara County have been uncovered — a development that could swing the results of the election and break the tie for second between Assembly member Evan Low and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian.

Low and Simitian, who ended the March primary in a 30,249-to-30,249 dead heat, were set to join front-runner and former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo on the November ballot — a first for a congressional race since California changed its primary rules in 2012.

But in came Jonathan Padilla, a 2020 Biden delegate and former Liccardo mayoral campaign staffer, who requested the recount and has been making the daily payments through a Super PAC called Count the Vote.

The machine recount of the 182,135 votes cast in the March primary race to replace U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo began Monday morning and is expected to take one to two weeks. But the final tally of votes could now tick upward as Padilla’s attorneys discovered ballots that weren’t counted originally but which they believe should have.

“I think there’s at least 23 voters that complied with the election code,” said Matthew Alvarez, a partner and election attorney at Rutan and Tucker that Padilla hired. “For normal reasons during an election they were missed and they should be counted now.”

Alvarez said discovering ballots that were accidentally excluded is a normal part of the recount process.

Liccardo campaign consultant Orrin Evans said in a statement that “Sam Liccardo believes that every vote should be counted. Period. It is unconscionable that anyone would argue against the inclusion of every legal ballot.”

Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters spokesperson Michael Borja was unable to say whether the ballots referenced by Alvarez would be counted.

“There’s a queue of challenges building up,” he said. “The executives and our county counsel will have to review them and it will take some time.”

As of mid-day Thursday, Santa Clara County had recounted ballots from 108 of the 199 precincts in the district.

Meanwhile, in San Mateo County, Assistant Chief Elections Officer Jim Irizarry is increasing the daily rate that Padilla will have to pay for the recount from $5,000 to $12,000 — Padilla has been paying $12,000 a day in Santa Clara County where a majority of the votes are being counted.

“The increase is necessary to reimburse the county for the actual daily costs of the recount that have been incurred starting Monday, April 15, 2024,” Irizarry wrote in an email to Padilla’s attorney that was obtained by The San Jose Mercury News. “The increase in the daily deposit is primarily due to the change from a manual to a machine recount and the retrieval of individual ballots by precincts, increasing our labor and overhead costs.”


Both counties previously estimated that a manual recount would be more costly than a machine recount. Padilla originally requested a manual recount before amending his request for the cheaper machine recount.

In Irizarry’s email, which was sent Wednesday night, he said Padilla had until 5 p.m. on Thursday to pay the outstanding $28,000 difference between the old and new fee.

Padilla confirmed that the payment would be made and called the change “a bait-and-switch.”

“So even though San Mateo County only has 20% of the votes in the district, they are now charging us the same amount of money as Santa Clara County, which has 80% of the votes,” Padilla wrote in an email. “How does this make sense?”

Padilla also slammed Low and U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna over their views on the recount. Last week, Low’s lawyers tried to halt the recount altogether, alleging that certain recount deadlines were missed.

In an April 9 tweet, Khanna called the recount a “crass political ploy” and said that “a candidate wanting to overturn the will of the voters is undemocratic,” referencing the political connections between Liccardo and Padilla.

“What’s even sadder is that Evan Low and Ro Khanna are up to their necks in this Trumpian travesty to exclude legal ballots,” Padilla said. “Shame!”

In rebuttal, Low campaign spokesperson Clay Volino said in a statement that “Sam Liccardo’s lackey Jonathan Padilla has the facts wrong.”

“He’s trying to avoid answering for the dark money Super PAC that is funding this expensive recount on Sam Liccardo’s behalf,” Volino said. “If Padilla really cared about protecting democracy, he would disclose his secret donors so we know who Sam could be beholden to.”


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