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Election Foul-Up Leads to New Slate of Winners

Voting: San Bernardino County releases correct results after computer programming error led to haywire tallies.


SAN BERNARDINO — One candidate felt kicked in the stomach. Others declared justice triumphant.

A week after election officials in San Bernardino County discovered that a computer programming error caused ballots cast in the Nov. 6 elections to be counted all wrong, the real results were released Tuesday.

The recount showed that some winners were losers and vice versa in 13 of the county's 82 races.

"I'm devastated," said Tony Sedano, who thought he had won a seat on the East Valley Water District. He hadn't.

"You go through the thrill of winning on election night, and you get congratulated, and this happens."

In one of the worst election mistakes in San Bernardino County history, new winners were named for nine seats on eight school boards, two water district seats, a county Board of Education seat and a spot on a community college governing board.

About 20 candidates gathered Tuesday at the county registrar's office to await the results.

"Justice has been served," said David Van Fleet of Ontario, a 20-year incumbent on the Ontario-Montclair school board who finished sixth of seven candidates on election night. "It has been the longest seven days of my life."

The loser in that race was Daniel Contreras, 39, of Ontario, a financial advisor who came in third last week. In fact, he finished last.

"I feel like I've been kicked in the stomach," Contreras said.

"I'm disappointed in the system in general. We need to take a good, hard look at the way things are done. Frankly, this makes Florida look like child's play."

The county registrar of voters put a positive spin on the mistake by a county computer programmer.

"We stumbled, but it shows the system works," said Registrar Ingrid Gonzales. "The voters' choices have been counted. I am sorry to all of those people who were led to believe they have won, but we didn't change any of the votes. It showed the will of the people."

San Bernardino County spokesman David Wert said the county is instituting backup procedures to prevent a recurrence.

"We understand how hard it is for people to find out they went from first last week to last," Wert said. "The preliminary results are not something that people should take to the bank."

John Hice, president of DIMS Inc., the Sacramento-based consultant that provides software to the county, said this is the most extensive revision of an election he has seen in more than 40 years.

"It was a people issue," Hice said. "There are many checks you have to go through, but it comes down to people doing their jobs."

The county computer programmer officials said was responsible for the errors has been disciplined and was not working Tuesday during the recount.

Races in which the outcomes were affected by the recount:

* Etiwanda School Board: Cecilia Solorio won; Norma Quintana lost.

* County Board of Education: John Preston Miller won; Lou Herz lost.

* San Bernardino County Community College: Chuck Terrell won; Stephanie Cereceres lost.

* Chino Valley Unified School District: John Pruitt Jr. won; Gary Edwards lost.

* Cucamonga School District: Laura Hendison won; Alene Hirz lost.

* Ontario-Montclair School District: David Van Fleet won; Daniel Contreras lost.

* Morongo Unified School District: Donna Munoz won; Ed Will lost.

* Rialto Unified School District: Charles Skaggs won; Don Olinger lost.

* Rim of the World Unified School District: Jane St. John won; Chris Avila lost. In a second race, Bob Gladwell defeated Danny Radzin.

* Adelanto Elementary School District. Dan Tan won; Jack Fortner lost.

* Mojave Water District. Mike Page won; Bob Almond lost.

* East Valley Water District. Edward Negrete won; Tony Sedano lost.


Correspondent Matthew Chin contributed to this story.

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