City Council candidate Joe Vasquez, who finished 26 votes behind winner Margaret Clark in Tuesday's election, is claiming that the city's old-fashioned hand-tally methods were so sloppy that they cost him the election.
Vasquez has demanded a recount, which city officials plan to hold this week.
Unless the results are overturned in his favor, Vasquez must pay the cost of bringing back eight precinct workers to retally the 2,309 votes cast Tuesday. City Clerk Janice Warner said that it will cost $2,039 per six-hour period, and that the tally probably will take 12 hours to complete.
Vasquez, a Rosemead school board member, said he asked for another count because his campaign volunteers, stationed at each of the 14 precincts, claimed to have witnessed haphazard vote-counting.
According to unofficial final results, Clark captured 845 votes, or 36.6%, while Vasquez finished second with 819, or 35.5%. Jean DeCocker, the third candidate, got 645 votes, or 27.9%. The election was to fill a seat vacated when DeCocker's husband, Robert, died last year. The term ends in April, 1992.
"I think there could have been some mistakes when they were counting," Vasquez said Thursday. "My campaign workers were concerned (that precinct workers) were inconsistent. At one polling place they were bickering about the counts, about whether they were counting it correctly."
Warner contended that the results are correct, saying the city uses an antiquated system of hand tallying that is virtually foolproof. Two workers at each precinct tally the vote on two separate sheets and count the total. If the totals don't match, they start the whole process over again until the two numbers are identical.
But the city clerk did say she received reports from some precinct workers that people watching the count were "interfering with the tally."
"There were poll watchers (unofficial citizen observers) talking during the tally," Warner said. "I heard every precinct had problems with the poll watchers. There were concerns at all precincts."
Meanwhile, Clark, a planning commissioner, is to be sworn in during Tuesday night's City Council meeting. She dismissed any notion that the election recount would favor her opponent. "Joe (Vasquez) is overreacting on this whole thing," Clark said. "I highly doubt there would be that large a margin of error."