In California's 16th District, Joe Simitian leads Evan Low by one vote in preliminary recount results

Grace Hase and Harriet Blair Rowan, The Mercury News on

Published in Political News

SAN JOSE, Calif. — With the recount for California’s Congressional District 16 race in full swing, preliminary results show Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian leading Assemblyman Evan Low by one vote.

On April 15, a machine recount of the 182,135 votes cast in the March primary race to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo began in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties where Low and Simitian were tied for second behind former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. The latest preliminary results reflect the recount in 77 of the 199 precincts in Santa Clara County.

The data showed three votes were added: two for Simitian and one for Low. All three votes were previously uncounted. The total number of votes increased by one vote in all three precincts where a change was recorded, so far.

Santa Clara County said late Monday afternoon that it had finished counting in 196 precincts, but did not update the preliminary results initially released Friday.

San Mateo County had yet to release results as of Monday afternoon, but were expecting to report some in the evening. Assistant Chief Elections Officer Jim Irizarry said that 28 ballots were being challenged by attorneys to be included in the recount.

While California has no automatic recount trigger for tied statewide or federal races, Jonathan Padilla, a 2020 Biden delegate and former mayoral campaign staffer for Liccardo, requested the recount and has been paying for it through a Super PAC called Count the Vote.

Critics of Liccardo have accused him of orchestrating the recount due to his political connection with Padilla — a charge Liccardo’s campaign has denied. An FEC complaint filed Friday by Santa Clara County Government Attorneys Association President Max Zarzana alleged the former mayor tried to skirt campaign contributions and colluded with the Super PAC. Zarzana called it a “scheme” for the congressional candidate to “avoid a three-way race in the November general election.”

The FEC’s Office of General Counsel reviews all complaints that are filed and determines whether it’s in the FEC’s jurisdiction and meets the criteria for a “proper complaint” before it initiates an investigation.

The three-way race would have been a first for a congressional general election in California since the state switched to a top-two system more than a decade ago. However, if the tie for second place is broken during a recount that would change.


An additional 24 votes might be up for grabs after Padilla’s attorneys last week challenged a slew of ballots that were excluded from the original vote tally.

In an April 18 letter to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, Matthew Alvarez, an election lawyer and partner at Rutan and Tucker, argued that seven of the votes were cast by registered voters who were accidentally given a conditional voter registration form, which is used for people registering on Election Day. Alvarez said the seven voters didn’t check a box attesting that they were a citizen, which ultimately led to the county rejecting the ballot.

“But for the inadvertent error on the part of the county’s election processes, these votes would have been counted because the voters would not — and should not — have been asked to fill out conditional registration forms,” Alvarez argued.

Another 16 votes were cast by voters who also failed to check the U.S. citizenship box on their conditional registration form, but signed the line saying they swear they are a citizen and at least 18 years of age under penalty of perjury. Alvarez argues the check box is “duplicative” so those ballots shouldn’t be rejected.

The remaining vote came from an unhoused individual that the county didn’t have a valid address on file for.

On Monday afternoon, Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters spokesperson Michael Borja said they hadn’t made a ruling on the 24 ballots and that other additional ballots were under review. Santa Clara County is expecting to wrap up their count by the end of the week.

Simitian’s campaign declined to comment, stating that they are waiting the final results. A spokesperson for Low’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment, but the assemblyman has been outspoken against the recount.


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