Instead of winning by one vote, Carl E. Robinson apparently lost by three.
So on Monday, when county officials certified the results of his Nov. 5 race for reelection as a Compton Community College trustee, the startled incumbent asked for a recount of the 1,505 ballots cast.
Similar requests made by losing candidates in two city council elections--Lynwood and Montebello--also left the outcome of those races dangling somewhat in doubt.
At least for the moment, retired parks worker James E. Carter now enjoys the unfamiliar role of apparent victor after two previously unsuccessful attempts to defeat Robinson, who assumed the college post after a special election in 1980 and then won reelection to a full term the following year.
'Due Process' Cited
"I am elated," Carter said. "That makes me feel good. The best man won and the due process of law has been taken."
The unofficial computer tally on election night showed Robinson ahead, with 746 votes to Carter's 745.
But the Los Angeles County registrar of voters announced Monday that Carter had 754 votes to Robinson's 751.
"I'm concerned about where 14 ballots came from," Robinson said.
Marcia Ventura, a spokeswoman for the elections office, said the additional votes--of which nine went to Carter and five to Robinson--apparently were found in absentee ballots received on election day and damaged punch cards that could not be counted by machine.
Ventura said that all 16 college precincts will be recounted by hand, starting Tuesday. The procedure will cost Robinson $140 a day for each four-person canvassing board that he decides to use. The more boards utilized, the faster the recount. Each candidate and several representatives will be allowed to observe.
"With three votes (separating him from Carter) why shouldn't I have hope?" said Robinson, who twice ran unsuccessfully for Carson City Council. "Anything can happen."
During the campaign, both candidates said the main issue involved Robinson's fitness to serve. Last spring, the 51-year-old postal employee and president of the college board was arrested outside a Denny's restaurant in Wilmington on a charge of soliciting and accepting a $500 bribe from a West Covina accountant who does business with the college. Robinson acknowledges receiving the money, but has pleaded innocent and steadfastly contends that it was a legal campaign contribution. His trial is set for Dec. 17 in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Challenge in Lynwood
Regarding the council race in Lynwood, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County district attorney confirmed that dAefeated City Council candidate Benito R. Miranda has sent a letter challenging those results, claiming that several election violations marred the contest.
Miranda, who finished eighth out of 12 candidates seeking three council seats, contends that he has sworn statements from several voters saying, among other things, that ballot boxes were left unlocked and some computerized ballots were apparently discarded.
More Detail Wanted
But Deputy Dist. Atty. Candace J. Beason said Miranda would have to provide more detail before his allegations can be sufficiently investigated. She declined to say whether any of his general claims appeared to be actual violations.
"The district attorney and the voter registrar, they are like fat cats," Miranda said. "They want somebody else to do their work." However, Miranda added that, "I'm going to pursue this. Right now I'm talking to an attorney. I'm willing to furnish the district attorney any information they want."
Recount Asked in Montebello
In Montebello, defeated City Council candidate Kathy Salazar said Tuesday she not only asked for a recount but also intends to file a court challenge of that race, in which she finished fifth out of six candidates seeking three seats.
Salazar complained after the election that city officials improperly allowed last-place finisher Albert Phillips to compete in the election although he allegedly had not lived in the district since 1983. Phillips captured 441 votes; Salazar lost by only 50 votes.
Phillips could not be reached for comment. On city election records, he listed his residence as 1109 W. Beverly, which is the address of the Golden Manor Retirement Center. On Tuesday, however, center employee Margie Cooper said he does not live there.
City Atty. Henry Barbosa, who had previously ruled that Phillips was qualified to seek office, declined to comment beyond saying that although the candidate apparently has a "fluctuating address . . . the more prudent and lawful thing to do" was to allow him on the ballot.
'Not a Crusader'
Once Salazar files the challenge with the Los Angeles County clerk, that office will have five days to submit it to a Superior Court, said elections spokeswoman Ventura.
"I'm not a crusader, but this makes me feel like one," Salazar said. Even if her challenge does not succeed, she said, "I'll feel good within myself that I tried real hard to bring this to justice."
"There is just a cloud over the whole election, and it really should not have happened."