SLO County vote count goes on as election officials come under fire

Tommy Gong

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

San Luis Obispo County election officials finished last week with still more than 34,000 ballots to be counted, as well as with an apparent error that could force a redo of an entire community services district vote. However, SLO County’s high-profile races are now close to being decided.

Following a vote count Friday, Councilwoman Caren Ray increased her lead both by percentage and vote differential over incumbent Mayor Jim Hill in the race for the Arroyo Grande mayor’s seat. Ray now leads Hill 52.82 percent to 47.18 percent.

A total of 391 votes separate Ray and Hill, with thus far, Ray having received 3,658 and Hill having garnered 3,267. At the conclusion of election night, 238 votes separated Ray and Hill.

In SLO County’s other close mayor’s race, the lead also widened. Councilman John Headding now leads businessman John Weiss 52.09 percent to 47.91 percent. The vote differential in the Morro Bay race widened from 101 votes to 188 votes. Following Friday’s count, Headding has received 2,344 votes to Weiss’s 2,156.

Meanwhile, SLO County Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong’s office made an error that, if confirmed, will require a redo of the entire Los Osos CSD election.

Gong office miscategorized one of the three seats that were up for grabs on the Los Osos CSD board. One of the seats was categorized as a seat coming with a two-year term, when it was earlier described correctly as having a four-year term.

Appointed incumbent Christine Womack ran unopposed for the two-year seat. Womack replaced a CSD director who stepped down after serving for more than two years.

If an appointee fills the place of a board member who served more than two years, then the appointed member’s seat goes up for election for a full four-year term. The seat goes up for just a two-year term in the case that the board member who stepped down served less than half of his term.

If the Los Osos ballot mistake is formally confirmed, the CSD will have to hold a special election. The race would then reopen to all candidates and consist of competition to fill three seats on the board with four-year terms.

One of the candidates in the Los Osos CSD race, Stephen Best, alleges the apparent mistake actually amounts to voter manipulation and corruption. Best, who is currently on the outside looking in, trailing the CSD candidate in second place by one percentage point, said no matter the outcome of the election, he will file a complaint with the district attorney’s office.

Gong says there was no conspiracy or wrongdoing in the Los Osos CSD election, just a mistake.

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