Election Night

Monday, October 26, 2020

Do You Know Where Your Ballot Is?

Posted By on Mon, Oct 26, 2020 at 9:06 AM

For the first time, Californians can track their mail-in ballots from the point they’re printed to the moment they’re accepted by their county elections office.

Ballot tracking, now available in parts or all of a dozen states, has become a particularly useful option this year, when many voters are anxious about election security.

As of October 22, 2.7 million Californians — about 12 percent of the electorate —had signed up for mail-in ballot tracking with BallotTrax, a free service whose website spells out its security measures with all the gravitas of a nuclear code. Three states have higher participation rates so far — Oregon (16 percent), North Carolina (19 percent) and Colorado (43 percent).

According to the California Secretary of State Office, just under 27,000 Humboldt County voters had returned their vote-by-mail ballots as of Oct. 24, or around 31 percent of the just more than 86,000 who received one. Of those, 99.45 percent have been accepted, the state reports.

Californians have been voting by mail in record numbers at this stage in the election cycle. But thousands of ballots might not be counted for various reasons, from voters using red ink to fill out their ballot to missing the mail-in date.

One of the likeliest ways for a ballot to get rejected is for the voter’s signature not to match their previous voter registration forms or to be missing from the return envelope.

(For all you need to know about casting a ballot amid this COVID-19 pandemic — including how to check registration status, register, turn in your ballot or vote in person — see prior Journal coverage here.)

When signing your ballot, make sure you sign it as you would anything else, Deva Marie Proto, the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters, advised. For example, if you don’t normally include your middle initial in your signature, don’t include it when you sign your ballot. A different slant, tighter spacing or new loops in letters can disqualify a ballot.

“In terms of what we match it to, we use the most recent voter registration,” Proto said. “And then we also have all the past registrations and all the previous vote-by-mail signatures. If somebody updated their registration through the DMV, perhaps we got that signature. So it really depends on each individual voter, the variety and number of signatures that we have for them.”

So far, Proto said, about 800 ballots in her county have been marked as having signature problems. That comes out to about 1.2 percent of all ballots cast.

However, voters in this category still have a chance to get their vote counted.

“We will mail everyone a letter that will let them know the instructions on how to correct that signature and when they have to get it in,” Proto said. “If people are signed up for BallotTrax, it will send them a notification as well that there is an issue and they can contact us.”

At that point, voters must sign their name again to verify they’re legitimate.

(For all you need to know about casting a ballot amid this COVID-19 pandemic — including how to check registration status, register, turn in your ballot or vote in person — see prior Journal coverage here.)

Elena Neale-Sacks is a reporter at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Journal digital editor Kimberly Wear contributed to this report.

Votebeat is a national media collaboration about the administration and integrity of, and issues regarding, the unprecedented 2020 election. In California, CalMatters is hosting the collaboration with the Fresno Bee, the Long Beach Post and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
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Sunday, October 25, 2020

Replacing Cash Bail: Fairer Justice or Robopocalypse?

Posted By on Sun, Oct 25, 2020 at 12:53 PM

The Bail Boys bail bonds displays a "No on Prop 25" poster in downtown Los Angeles on Oct. 21, 2020. Prop. 25 would end California's current cash bail system and replace it with a three tier risk assessment system. - PHOTO BY TASH KIMMELL FOR CALMATTERS.
  • Photo by Tash Kimmell for CalMatters.
  • The Bail Boys bail bonds displays a "No on Prop 25" poster in downtown Los Angeles on Oct. 21, 2020. Prop. 25 would end California's current cash bail system and replace it with a three tier risk assessment system.

California is either about to right decades of inequality between rich and poor defendants by eliminating cash bail, or it’s about to turn over its justice system to robots.

The question of what to do about the system that decides whether people should be free while awaiting trial will be determined by Proposition 25. The stakes, as explained by each side, are either ending an unjust system or relinquishing judicial authority to a pretrial assessment tool run on an algorithm.

If passed, Prop. 25 would allow each of California’s 58 counties to choose its own algorithm to assess a person’s flight risk or likelihood of reoffending while awaiting trial. The algorithm makes a recommendation, but the decision falls to the judge.

Yet those algorithms meant to solve for human bias have come under scrutiny in recent years, with some early boosters pulling back support. Those new dissenters worry the computer programs currently available will be overly broad in interpreting risk and unnecessarily keep throngs of defendants, many of them poor and minorities, behind bars.

Cash bail as an industry dominated by commercial bail bondsmen only exists in the U.S. and the Philippines. Some states have begun to turn away from cash bail either relying on national algorithms or, like Virginia and Florida, created their own.

In 2018, former Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law to eliminate cash bail, replacing it with a new pretrial risk assessment similar to federal courts. But the years since SB 10 have been difficult for supporters of bail determination algorithms. First, a group of 27 academics from institutions like MIT and Harvard pulled their support, citing the danger of using inexact and overly broad definitions in predicting violence.

Their principle objection was the way the algorithms defined risk. “When tools conflate the likelihood of arrest for any reason with risk of violence, a large number of people will be labeled a threat to public safety without sufficient justification,” the group wrote.

Then this year, an even bigger setback for algorithm advocates: The Pretrial Justice Institute, long the standard-bearer for a risk-based algorithmic approach, announced it no longer supported using algorithms in determining someone’s eligibility for pretrial release.

“We were too focused on fighting the damaging status quo to really listen,” PRI wrote in a mea culpa in February. “We made a mistake.”

Supporters of Prop. 25 argue that inequities created or exacerbated by the algorithm can be worked out during the periodic reassessments of the program — Prop. 25, if passed, would get its own review by Jan. 1, 2024 — and that other such algorithms are in use in other states, with no grave consequences yet reported.

There are five popular algorithms in use today, in states from Kentucky to New Jersey, along with several California counties that have already eliminated cash bail.

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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Why do we keep voting on this? Exploring Prop. 13’s ‘Tax Revolt Family Tree’

Posted By on Thu, Oct 22, 2020 at 6:56 PM

Illustration by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters; istock, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association - CALMATTERS
  • CalMatters
  • Illustration by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters; istock, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

The tax revolt started in California in 1978, but it never really ended.

Four decades ago mad-as-hell voters banded together to pass Proposition 13, capping property taxes, slapping a constitutional muzzle on state government and wringing local budgets like a washcloth. The electorate’s anti-tax fever may have broken in the years since, but the legacy of Prop. 13 is still very much with us. 

Need proof? Check your ballot. 

This year, Californians are being asked to weigh in on two more changes to the tax-slashing constitutional amendment that has done more than any other California ballot measure to reshape the state’s fiscal landscape and the politics of taxation. 

Proposition 19 would pop open one new property tax loophole for older or disabled homeowners, while sewing shut another for people who inherit their parents’ and grandparents’ homes. And Proposition 15 would raise property taxes on many businesses — the largest change to California’s property tax structure since Prop. 13 campaign leader Howard Jarvis was railing against high taxes and “marinated bureaucrats.”

If it seems like California voters are perpetually being asked to redefine, clarify, overhaul or rewrite the terms of the 1978 tax revolt, it’s because we are. Since Prop. 13, the state has voted 33 times on potential amendments to it. These offshoots of Prop. 13 have sprouted their own offshoots, adding additions to revisions to edits of the original text. Forty-two years later, the tree first planted in 1978 has gotten mighty tangled.

“It’s an evergreen story,” said Jason Cohn, whose Jarvis documentary The First Angry Man, premiered last week. Cohn and his wife, Camille Servan-Schreiber, began working on the film in 2010 when voters were considering Proposition 26 — a successful Prop. 13 patch that made it even harder for state and local governments to raise revenue through fees.

“It’s never not relevant,” said Cohn.

There are few areas of California economic or political life that Prop. 13 hasn’t touched. To recap, it:

  • Capped property taxes at 1% of a property’s assessed value
  • Fixed a property’s assessed value to its original purchase price (rather than how much it can be currently sold for)
  • Allowed that assessed value to inch up with inflation, but by no more than 2% each year
  • Allowed a property to be reassessed whenever it is sold or if the owner makes a significant improvement or addition
  • Required local and state governments — and in some cases voters — to get two-thirds of the vote to introduce new taxes

In the short term, the measure gave homeowners a lasting tax cut and, amid skyrocketing real estate prices, made it much easier for homeowners to stay in their homes. In exchange, property tax payments plummeted 60% in a year, cutting $7 billion from city and school district budgets. 

Longer term, Prop. 13 had a number of unintended consequences. State government assumed a much bigger role in school financing. Local governments suddenly had a bigger incentive to approve commercial real estate over residential development. Governments across California turned to other sources of revenue — including income taxes, use taxes and fees — to make up the difference. 

The Prop. 13 campaign reverberated across the country. Jarvis, the garrulous, cigar-chomping political gadfly who had been tilting at California’s tax code, Don Quixote-like, for decades, became a magazine cover-gracing populist hero overnight. Tax-capping measures sprouted up elsewhere, augering the landslide election of Ronald Reagan. In its wake, Jerry Brown, the state’s governor at the time, came to rebrand himself a “born-again tax cutter” — one of many Democrats who would see “taxation” and “government spending” as four letter words for decades to come.

“The era of the tax revolt, I think, has largely ended in California,” said Cohn. “But Prop. 13 has its own status outside that liberal-conservative spectrum.”

Of the 33 changes put before the voters, 24 have passed. They come in three varieties:

1. Perk Protectors

Under Prop. 13, a home’s value is reassessed whenever there’s a change of ownership or the property owner makes an addition or improvement. Property owners can find themselves slapped with a much higher tax bill if they opt to fix up their current place or move to a new one. As soon as Prop. 13 passed, people began scrambling for exemptions.

If someone is forced to move after a natural disaster, don’t they deserve a tax break? What if someone inherits a home from a parent — is California going to impose an orphan’s tax? And what about the responsible homeowner who installs a sprinkler system? A solar panel? A rain barrel? 

Since 1978, the vast majority of the Prop. 13-related initiatives have carved out highly specific exemptions for niche investments and transactions, expanding the tax break’s protections one ballot measure at a time. 

2. Rulemakers

Another key feature of Prop. 13: Legislators hoping to raise taxes need to convince two-thirds of their colleagues to agree. For local taxes, two-thirds of voters are needed to approve “special taxes.”

But what if the taxes were used to pay off debt? If a regulator imposes a fee or a fine, is that a “tax” too? And what’s a “special tax” anyway? 

Eight more measures have gone before the California voter to answer such questions.

3. Tax hikers

Proposition 13 makes it really hard for governments to raise revenue. That was the point. So when interest groups are particularly strapped, sometimes they go to the voters directly asking for a loophole. 

Despite everything, Prop. 13 still retains its basic structure, said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, one of the state’s most influential anti-tax groups. Property taxes are still capped at 1% of a property’s value, they can increase by only 2% each year and reassessment still occurs only with an ownership change or upgrade. “Those are the three legs of the stool and those have not changed,” said Coupal.

What makes Prop. 13 such a moving target, constantly in need of more modest revisions and clarifications, he said, is its brevity. The 1978 effort took place before California proposition campaigns became the half-a-billion-dollar, professionalized business they are today. 

Jarvis and his co-drafters “were not insiders and they wanted a quick immediate fix that was really needed at the time,” said Coupal. “It was sparse…so there were a lot of unanswered questions. You can criticize Prop. 13 for that but remember, the United States Bill of Rights is very sparse too.”

Darien Shanske, a law professor at UC Davis, agrees that Prop. 13’s repeat presence on the ballot is a product of the way that it was written. But he doesn’t liken its lack of specificity to the genius of the Founding Fathers.

Overly-strict in some places and ambiguous in others, the measure “was particularly poorly drafted,” he said, which has led to continual efforts to prune or graft modifications onto it. That’s to say nothing of the frequent court battles over its precise meaning. 

Critics of ballot box budgeting contend that the Legislature is better equipped than voters to make complex taxation and spending decisions, and believe Prop. 13 has resulted in an infuriating catch-22. By making it more difficult for lawmakers to raise taxes, Prop. 13 makes it more likely that increases will require yet another ballot measure. And because constitutional amendments can only be changed through the popular vote, any direct changes to Prop. 13 have to go before the voters.

Tax policy and refined spending decisions shouldn’t be done within the Constitution, Shanske said — “but once we’ve started down this road, we’re stuck with it because now we can’t fix it except through the Constitution.”

Via the Post It, CalMatters political reporter Ben Christopher shares frequent updates from the (socially distanced) 2020 campaign trail.

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Elections Office: A Quarter of HumCo's Registered Voters Have Already Cast Ballots

Posted By on Thu, Oct 22, 2020 at 3:28 PM

Candidates, it's time to turn in those nomination papers. - FILE
  • File
  • Candidates, it's time to turn in those nomination papers.
Roughly a quarter of Humboldt County's registered voters have already cast ballots, according to Registrar of Voters Kelly Sanders.

With the state having pivoted to an all vote-by-mail election and officials having urged voters to get their ballots filled out and in the mail — or one of the official ballot drop boxes located throughout the county — as early as possible, Sanders said about 25 percent of ballots issued in Humboldt County have already been returned with almost two weeks still remaining before Election Day. That equals about 20,500 ballots submitted locally so far. For context, that's about a third of the almost 61,000 cast in 2016.

For all you need to know about casting a ballot amid this COVID-19 pandemic — including how to check registration status, register, turn in your ballot or vote in person — see prior Journal coverage here.
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Monday, October 12, 2020

No Reports of 'Unofficial' Ballot Drop Boxes in Humboldt

Posted By on Mon, Oct 12, 2020 at 4:52 PM

Humboldt County Registrar of  Voters Kelly Sanders told the Journal in an email today that she has not heard any local reports of unofficial ballot drop boxes surreptitiously appearing in the region, like the ones showing up in the southern ends of the state.

Two California officials, including the secretary of state, have deemed the Republic Party-placed boxes, which turned up in at least three California counties with tight congressional races — Fresno, Los Angeles and Orange — illegal, according to multiple media reports.

And, while the state GOP admits to ownership, it appears there are no plans to take them down. An article by the Los Angeles Times reports Hector Barajas, a California Republican Party spokesperson, has said he would “not specify how many boxes had been deployed or where.”

To be clear, there are 10 ballot drop off boxes in Humboldt County, according to the elections office.
  • Humboldt County Office of Elections 2426 6th St in Eureka
  • Ray’s Food Place —Willow Creek 38915 Hwy 299, Willow Creek
  • Murphy ’s Market —Trinidad 1 Main St, Trinidad
  • Murphy ’s Market —Glendale 1451 Glendale Dr, McKinleyville
  • Ace Hardware —McKinleyville 2725 Central Ave, McKinleyville
  • Murphy ’s Market —Westwood 100 Westwood Center, Alliance Rd, Arcata
  • Murphy ’s Market —Sunny Brae 785 Bayside Rd, Arcata
  • Murphy ’s Market —Cutten 4020 Walnut Dr, Eureka
  • Ray ’s Food Place —Fortuna 2009 Main Street, Fortuna
  • ShopSmart —Redway 3430 Redwood Dr, Redway

State Sen. Mike McGuire, who represents the North Coast, was among those to call foul, calling the GOP move election fraud and noting that a cease and desist order has been issued.
Sanders noted that the outdoor drop box at the elections office is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days per week.  Also, check out the Journal's deep dive into what you need to know about Nov. 3 here
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Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Virtually No Chance for a Ruckus at Dem Convention

Posted By on Wed, Aug 19, 2020 at 11:45 AM

Supporters peer through the window during a Bernie Sanders presidential campaign event at Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, CA on February 17, 2020. - PHOTO BY ANNE WERNIKOFF FOR CALMATTERS
  • Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
  • Supporters peer through the window during a Bernie Sanders presidential campaign event at Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, CA on February 17, 2020.
Jeanna Harris was in Philadelphia when the Democratic Party convened there in the summer of 2016, and she had plenty of ways to “make some good trouble.”

Harris was part of the bloc within the California delegation supporting the failed presidential bid of Bernie Sanders. She and her fellow progressives cheered and jeered, ensuring their displeasure at the party’s selection of the more moderate Hillary Clinton was on full display to the televised audience. They smuggled in sharpies, signs, and banners to unfurl in protest. Halfway through the proceedings, just as Sanders was moving to nominate Clinton, they staged a walkout.

But this year, there will be no walkouts. Harris, a registered nurse and case manager for a health provider, is once again a delegate for Sanders, as are a majority of California’s delegates, But like most every other delegate, she is watching and tweeting along from home.

“You can’t make some good trouble when everything is virtual,” she said from her house near Culver City. “But we’re trying.”

The Vermont senator won California’s March 3 primary. And long after the actual contest for the Democratic presidential nomination was over, the state remained one of the most prominent Sanders holdouts. Going into the Democratic National Convention, more than 54% of the state’s pledged delegates were committed to Sanders. But last night — as unpledged delegates weighed in and former Vice President Joe Biden claimed the nomination — California split 263 to 231 for Biden over Sanders.

Under ordinary circumstances, the convention would give California progressives an opportunity to foment internal dissent — or at the very least, to push the party apparatus and its ticket to the left.

But these are not ordinary circumstances — and not just because the array of delegates puts a premium on uniting to oust President Donald Trump. The coronavirus pandemic has rendered the party’s big coming-together event in Milwaukee this week an almost entirely online affair. That means Zoom meetings in place of boozy after-hours networking events, comments sections — when left open — in place of rowdy caucus meetings, and angry tweets in place of heckles.

Harris said a number of progressive activists made “Medicare4All” protest signs and surgical masks to display during a California delegation morning meet-up — only to realize that only the event’s main speakers would be broadcast to the entire meeting.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Are You Ready to Vote?

Posted By on Tue, Aug 18, 2020 at 3:27 PM

The Humboldt County Office of Elections wants you to be ready for the Nov. 3 election, which is really just around the corner.

In a press release today, the office details all the steps necessary to make sure your vote is counted and where to go to find more information. All registered voters will be receiving a Vote by Mail ballot this year, and return options include placing one in the mail box or dropping it off in person at one of the nine Voter Assistance Offices that will be open from Oct. 31 to Nov. 3, locations of which can be found here.
Read the full elections office release below:
Get Ready Now for the November 3, 2020 General Election

Make sure your voter registration information is up to date.
To ensure there are no delays in receiving your ballot in the mail, verify that the Registrar of Voters has your most up-to-date voter information. Visit https://voterstatus.sos.ca.gov/ or call 707-445-7481 to verify both your residential and mailing address.

Is everything correct? If not, you can update your registration by re-registering to vote at registertovote.ca.gov or by calling 707 445-7481 and requesting a voter registration form be mailed to you.

Registered Voters Will Receive A Ballot in the Mail
For the November 3, 2020 General Election all registered voters will be mailed a Vote by Mail ballot to ensure a safe and accessible voting option during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mailing of Vote by Mail ballots will begin no later than October 5, 2020. Supplemental Vote by Mail mailings will follow for newly registered or re-registered voters.

Return Your Vote by Mail Ballot
We encourage you to vote safely at home, and return your Vote by Mail ballot in one of the following ways:

-Mail your ballot on or before Election Day – no postage required.
-In person at any Vote by Mail drop box location. Visit our website at https://humboldtgov.org/elections or call 707-445-7481 for locations.
-In person at any Voter Assistance Center between October 31st and November 3rd. Visit our website at https://humboldtgov.org/elections or call 707-445-7481 for locations.

Track Your Vote by Mail Ballot
Receive personalized text messages, emails or voicemails letting you know when your ballot is mailed, received, and counted by the Registrar of Voters by subscribing to WheresMyBallot.sos.ca.gov

Voter Assistance and In-Person Voting
There will be nine (9) locations called Voter Assistance Centers that will be open for four days, October 31st through November 3rd. At the Center, voters can:
-Turn in a Vote by Mail ballot
-Vote a precinct ballot or vote on an accessible voting machine
-Get a replacement ballot
-Register or update registration
-Get voting materials in Spanish or Hmong
If you chose to vote in-person, bring your Vote by Mail Ballot to surrender so you can vote a precinct ballot. Be prepared, lines may be long!
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Saturday, August 15, 2020

Could Trump ‘Sabotage’ California’s All-Mail Election?

Posted By on Sat, Aug 15, 2020 at 12:23 PM

A mail carrier wearing a mask and gloves in Berkeley on March 27, 2020. Postal employees are considered essential during the shelter in place. - PHOTO BY ANNE WERNIKOFF FOR CALMATTERS
  • Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
  • A mail carrier wearing a mask and gloves in Berkeley on March 27, 2020. Postal employees are considered essential during the shelter in place.
Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE

For months President Donald Trump has been reluctant to extend a lifeline to the financially infirm Postal Service, a reluctance his critics have said is motivated by his loathing of vote-by-mail.

On Thursday, Trump made that subtext … text.

Speaking about the ongoing COVID relief negotiations on Fox Business, the president claimed that without new funding for the Postal Service, California and other states that plan to send every voter a ballot before the November election will be out of luck.

“Now, they need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” the president said. “If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting. They just can’t have it.”

California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday denounced what he termed “sabotage that is clearly intentionally being done to our postal delivery,” but added that California had already factored in a workaround if there are delays. Ballots here that are postmarked by and through Election Day will be counted if they arrive up to 17 days after the election.

The day brought fresh news that Postal Service officials had recently sent 46 states letters warning that their voters could be disenfranchised by mail delays. But for six of those states, including California, the warning was much more narrow. The letter to California foresaw no problems for the “vast majority” of California voters, but said delayed mailed could disenfranchise new residents who register to vote in this state close to Election Day.

The Postal Service has seen a flurry of changes at the nation’s public mail delivery system, including placing new restrictions on overtime and restructuring executive leadership. Voting rights organizations say that could make it more difficult for voters to cast ballots by mail during the coronavirus pandemic.

California’s top election administrator, Democratic Secretary of State Alex Padilla, is concerned.

“If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting. They just can’t have it.”

In an Aug. 10 letter to recently appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, Padilla warned that the changes “create unnecessary risk so close to the election and undermine the ability of state and local election officials to administer free and fair elections.”

But California voters will not be entirely dependent on the timeliness of its mail carriers.

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Thursday, June 25, 2020

Tribal Chair: 'Huge Discrepancy' in Hoopa Election Results Being Referred to U.S. Attorney, Sheriff's Office for Investigation

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2020 at 5:15 PM

Hoopa Valley Tribal Chair Byron Nelson Jr. said in a statement today that a recount of election results “indicated a huge discrepancy in the number of calculated votes” for one district and findings suggest “individuals and potentially groups of individuals have engaged in efforts to manipulate election results.”

The matter, he said, will be referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office “for further investigation and action to hold the responsible parties accountable.”

“The General Election of the Hoopa Valley Tribe June 16, 2020 unofficial results were calculated wrong,” his statement reads. “As a result of recounting the Norton Field District election ballots, the Hoopa Valley Tribe declared Arnold ‘Deacon’ Ferris the official winner of his District.”

According to a Two Rivers Tribune story republished on the Redheaded Blackbelt website in collaboration with the paper, Ferris formally requested a recount on June 18 due to the three-vote margin in the race between him and Ryan Jackson, a former tribal chair, as well as other potential issues.

A June 23 recount found Ferris won by 80 votes.

“Yes, we are all angry that something as sacred and personal as our right to vote was tampered with. I am encouraging us all to focus on the solution, not the problem. We’ve spent enough time pointing fingers and tearing one another down. I would like to focus on the obviously broken system that would allow such blatant cheating,” Ferris told the Two Rivers Tribune. “Obviously, election reform has been added to my ever-growing list of priorities. One member’s vote being tampered with or uncounted is one too many in my opinion.”

He also thank Jackson for his service and wished him and his family well.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

UPDATE: Bohn Cruises, Fennell Faces a Possible Runoff and Everything Else You Need to Know from Election Night

Posted By and on Wed, Mar 4, 2020 at 6:21 AM

Humboldt County voters heavily supported a pair of incumbent Humboldt County supervisors on Election Day, while leaving a property tax assessment to fund one of the area’s largest fire departments hanging in the balance.

In the First District, Supervisor Rex Bohn, a two-term incumbent who has held his seat since taking over in 2012 for the retiring Jimmy Smith, easily dispatched radio personality Cliff Berkowitz. Bohn, who jumped out to a commanding early lead and never looked back, took 65 percent of the vote to Berkowitz’s 35 percent to win another four-year term.
Berkowitz conceded the race this morning, thanking his supporters and offering congratulations to his opponent while stating he “ran a good campaign” and the incumbent “began espousing many of the ideas I have supported” as the election neared.

“I hope that he will uphold his reputation for follow through by continuing to support these ideas,” Berkowitz wrote in the concession statement. “The people who voted for me will hold him accountable for being a supervisor for all of us.” Read the full statement at the end of the story.

In the Second District, two-term incumbent Estelle Fennell dominated a colorful batch of challengers but may face a November runoff in order to retain the seat she’s held since her election in 2012. In the final Election Night tally, Fennell took 49.92 percent of the vote and held a 1,081 vote lead over her closest runner up, Southern Humboldt rancher and business owner Michelle Bushnell, who finished with 29.93 percent of the vote. With an unknown number of ballots left to be counted in the race, this leaves Fennell tantalizingly close to the 50-percent threshold she would need to eclipse to avoid a runoff with Bushnell in November.

Meanwhile, Michael McKaskle, a Redway man who’s served on a variety of community boards, finished third in the race with 11.3 percent of the vote, followed by retired Hydesville Water District Director Rick French with 4.47 percent and Redway operations consultant Sean DeVries with 4.38 percent.


Up in the Arcata Fire District, which stretches from Bayside through McKinleyville and west to the Samoa Peninsula, voters appear to have narrowly voted down a special property tax estimated to bring an additional $2.2 million to the district, which officials say would allow it to maintain current staffing levels and rebuild depleted reserve funds. Measure R — which proponents said was crucial to avoid the closure of a fire station and the elimination of six firefighter positions — needed two-thirds of the vote to pass and appears to have fallen short, with 60.08 percent of district voters supporting it, though the race remains too close to call.

Local school bond measures, meanwhile, had a mixed day. Funding efforts in the Cuddeback Union School District were decisively voted down, while one for the Bridgeville Elementary School District appeared to pass narrowly. Another that would raise $18 million for facility repairs and upgrades at Eureka City Schools was too close to call.


On the national level, incumbent North Coast Representative Jared Huffman (D) took a commanding 65 percent of the vote in his Second Congressional District and will square off against Republican challenger Dale Mensing, who tallied 23 percent, in November. Humboldt County also joined a host of counties spread through 14 Super Tuesday states in casting presidential primary ballots, with all eyes on the race for the Democratic nomination to see who will take on President Donald Trump in November.


Humboldt County Democrats overwhelmingly preferred Bernie Sanders, giving him 48 percent of the vote, followed by Joe Biden, who took 17 percent, Elizabeth Warren with 15 percent and Mike Bloomberg with 6 percent. Statewide, Sanders took about 33 percent of the final Election Day tally, followed by Biden with 24 percent, Bloomberg with 15 percent and Warren with 12 percent (with 93 percent of California precincts reporting).

Based on the preliminary returns, it also looks like Humboldt County had a relatively large turnout in the primary, with 29,585 residents casting ballots thus far, or 980 more than at this point in the last presidential primary in 2016.

Find the full Final Election Night Report here.

Read Cliff Berkowitz's concession statement below:
I would like to like to thank all the people who voted; participation in the process is at the heart of our democracy. Thank you to all my volunteers and supporters for their hours of tireless work. I would like to particularly acknowledge the hard work and support from Claire Josefine, my campaign organizer, my family, and my wife Amy. So many people worked diligently to get our message out there, and in this arena, we succeeded. Issues that are now at the forefront of public discourse are there because of the work we all did. Thank you to everyone who wrote letters, walked door to door, made phone calls, put up signs, and supported me in myriad other ways.

Congratulations to Rex. He ran a good campaign. As the election neared, he began espousing many of the ideas I have supported. I encourage him to stick with them. He has embraced the idea of a Tribal Liaison, expanding Housing First county wide, begun talking about addressing the climate crisis with shovel-ready plans, and more. I hope that he will uphold his reputation for follow through by continuing to support these ideas. The people who voted for me will hold him accountable for being a supervisor for all of us.
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