When California state Sen. Lou Correa (D) authored SB 29 last year, allowing Vote-by-Mail (VBM) ballots to be accepted and counted even if they arrive at county election headquarters up to three days after Election Day, some state Election Integrity advocates were concerned. Somewhat vague language in part of the bill might allow for a case where, in the event of a very close margin announced on Election Night, unvoted absentee ballots could be quickly filled out after the fact and delivered to election officials inside the new three day post-election window. If a race was close enough, late arriving ballots — either legitimately voted on or before Election Day, or, depending on how local election officials choose to interpret the statute, illegitimately voted and delivered after Election Day — could actually reverse the results of such a contest. Little could Correa have known, however, as he was successfully moving his bill through the California state legislature last year, to take effect in January 2015, that the very first election of the year — and the very first to be decided by a small enough margin that it could be directly affected by late ballots now allowed under SB 29 — would be…Lou Correa’s…
On January 27, having been term-limited out of the state Senate, Correa ran in a Special Election to fill a vacancy on the Orange County, CA Board of Supervisors (District 1) against Republican Andrew Do and a number of other candidates. The results were exceedingly close. During the post-election canvass period, the lead see-sawed back and forth between Correa and Do, with as little as a 2-vote margin reported at one point out of nearly 50,000 ballots cast in the race.
Ultimately, the special election was certified by the county last week with a slim 43-vote margin in favor of Do. So was Correa a “victim” of his own legislation?
At the time it was being considered in the state Senate, proponents of the bill cited a 2010 incident in Riverside County, CA where “12,563 VBM ballots were discovered at a local post office the day after the June 8, 2010 Statewide Primary Election. These ballots were eventually accepted by the county elections official, but only after a superior court judge ruled that they should be counted.”