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Attorney general race hangs in the balance as 2 million votes remain uncounted

The laborious task of tallying the ballots begins in earnest. Democrat Kamala Harris is leading Republican Steve Cooley by just one-tenth of a percentage point, or 9,364 votes.

November 05, 2010|By Phil Willon, Los Angeles Times

Nearly 2 million ballots across California remain uncounted in the wake of Tuesday's general election, with the state attorney general race hanging in the balance as the slow process of tallying the outstanding votes began in earnest Thursday, state elections officials said.

San Francisco Dist. Atty. Kamala Harris, a Democrat, was leading Republican Steve Cooley, the district attorney of Los Angeles County, by just one-tenth of a percentage point — or 9,364 of the 7,215,055 votes counted thus far in that contest, according to the secretary of state's office Thursday afternoon.

With such a slim gap, the race for California's top law enforcement office remained too close to call, and a clear winner may not emerge for days or even weeks.

The pool of uncounted votes consists of many vote-by-mail ballots, including some that were turned in on election day, as well as provisional and damaged ballots. Signatures on the vote-by-mail and provisional ballots must be verified by elections workers before being counted.

Los Angeles topped all counties in the number of unread ballots: an estimated 411,960. Mail-in ballots were 233,374 of those. The other counties with the most uncounted ballots were San Diego with 240,000; Orange, with 233,196; Alameda, with 122,000; Sacramento, 120,000; Santa Clara, 108,000; and Contra Costa, 107,000.

Ventura County reported 40,279 uncounted and Riverside County 78,100. San Bernardino's estimate had not been submitted to the secretary of state. Nine other counties, including San Francisco, Kern and Sonoma, also had not submitted estimates.

In tiny El Dorado County, between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, 17,400 ballots remained uncounted Thursday. Potentially, that could equal 25% of the vote in the county.

Election officials have until Nov. 30 to tally all the votes.

"It can take up to 28 days for some counties to finish their canvass,'' said Shannan Velayas, spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office.

Cooley was widely seen as an early favorite in the attorney general race, thanks to a history of electoral success in Los Angeles County, where he became the first district attorney in more than 70 years to win three terms.

But Harris was leading Cooley by more than 14 percentage points in Los Angeles County.

phil.willon@latimes.com

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