Following Tuesday’s presidential primary election, confusion has arisen among voters over a March 4 Facebook post on Calaveras County District 4 Supervisor Dennis Mills’ reelection campaign page.
In the post, Mills stated that there were a number of “reports of problems throughout the county with the elections,” and that he is working with “officials” to ensure that “all legitimate votes are counted.”
“The race for Calaveras County Supervisor is NOT OVER AT ALL!” Mills said in the post before referencing a March 4 press release from the Registrar of Voters. That release stated that 4,000 ballots are still left to be counted, not including mailed-in ballots that are expected to be received by the end of the day Friday.
“Elections staff is logging and verifying signatures on the returned vote by mail ballots received on Election Day,” the release reads. “Once the ballots have been logged they will be opened and tabulated. We are also picking up the equipment from vote centers and drop box locations today. Once everything is picked up from these locations, we will perform an audit on each location, and check the equipment for damage. Counting ballots is our top priority and once it is complete we will begin the manual hand count to verify the equipment tabulated the votes for each contest correctly.”
Thursday morning, elections officials said they were unaware of what problems Mills was referencing in the post.
“I’m not aware of the problems he is referencing,” Clerk-Recorder Rebecca Turner told the Enterprise in an email. “I can assure you that whatever the concerns are, they do not impact the integrity of the election process or the results of the election.”
Turner added that she’s not sure what “officials” Mills is coordinating with.
“He is not working (with) me, the County Election Official, or my staff,” Turner said. “We have had observers throughout the election process. The public is welcome to view all election related activities as long as they are not disrupting the process.”
As of Thursday, Mills was trailing challenger and Angels Camp City Councilmember Amanda Folendorf, who had secured 51.6% of the vote to his 48.4% – a 101-vote difference.
Mills could not be reached for comment, but Jack Cox, a spokesperson for the campaign said Thursday that the post was in response to confusion among voters that the election had already been decided, when in reality, thousands of additional votes had yet to be counted.
“Obviously there are questions about the fact that they had an issue yesterday,” Cox said, adding that Mills has taken numerous calls from voters that thought Folendorf had emerged victorious.
The elections office “should've had all these votes at one point in time counted,” Cox said. “I think the public was very confused about what the election results were.”
Cox said Mills will not have comments until the final count is in.
In a phone interview Thursday, Turner said it’s standard to have several outstanding mailed-in ballots yet to be counted in the days following the election.
The office, by law, has 30 days to certify the election, and its intended March 15 certification date is “very early,” Turner said.
Turner added that they were hoping to have updated results out Thursday, but fielding phone calls from concerned voters throughout the day has held up the process.
She still expects the full count to be released Friday.
“We’re anticipating we can get this done quickly,” Turner said. “As soon as we get updates, we will give updates.”
To address concerns expressed in Facebook comments that volunteers working with the elections office may have been impartial, Turner clarified that those remarks may be in reference to local volunteers with the Electoral Integrity Project. That’s an independent group that observes elections processes across the country, and is in no way affiliated with the county, she said.