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Tally: 319 votes separate Monahan, Stephens

With ballots still to count, challenger admits it's a long shot, but he's not ready to concede to the veteran councilman. Genis, Mensinger are the top 2 vote-getters and likely winners.

November 07, 2012|By Jill Cowan
  • Kay Cotton, right, candidate voter services manager, talks with Katrina Foley and John Stephens, center, at the Orange County Registrar of Voters' headquarters in Santa Ana on Wednesday.
Kay Cotton, right, candidate voter services manager,… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

SANTA ANA — With all 71 precincts reporting, former Mayor Sandy Genis and current Councilmen Steve Mensinger and Gary Monahan are the top three vote-getters in the Costa Mesa City Council race. Voters were able to choose three of eight candidates.

But with potentially thousands of provisional and vote-by-mail ballots still uncounted, and with fourth-place candidate John Stephens trailing Monahan by 319 votes as of 5 p.m. Wednesday, the local attorney said he's not ready to concede.

"We still have a shot," Stephens said Wednesday morning, as he observed ballot-counting at the Orange County Registrar of Voters' headquarters. "It depends on how many votes haven't been counted in Costa Mesa."

Stephens was one in a small pack of council candidates and supporters on both sides of the "3Ms" and Costa Mesans for Responsible Government divide who showed up at the registrar's office to watch some of the remaining Orange County ballots be counted — a process that could take days, as there are approximately 260,000 of them.

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The number of provisional ballots left to count as of 5 p.m. Wednesday was about 78,394, which does not include vote-by-mail ballots.

Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley said updated results will be available at 5 p.m. daily until results are certified in about two weeks. Those updates, he added, are unique to Orange County in California.

The practice of observing counting operations, he said, is not uncommon with close races.

"I've been through this tons of times," Kelley said over the steady hum of vote-by-mail envelopes zipping through machines and the shuffling of papers in the office's warehouse. At picnic tables nearby, seasonal county workers stacked and sorted forms to be counted, while others studied signatures on hundreds of orange provisional ballots.

Kelley told the group — which also included a few people interested in other tight contests, like the one between Assemblyman Chris Norby (R-Fullerton) and Fullerton Mayor Sharon Quirk-Silva — they are free to roam around most of the facility or peek over some workers' shoulders.

Although observers are welcome to challenge the validity of ballots based on factors like whether the ballot and envelope signatures match, Kelley said that most challenges won't disqualify the votes.

"You may have an interest in a campaign, and you might try to start challenging everything," he warned. "That'll die real quick."

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