Losing O.C. candidate is still putting up a fight

Losing O.C. candidate is still putting up a fight
Orange County election officials and observers review ballots cast in last month's election for the 1st Supervisorial District seat. The recount is being paid for by the losing candidate, Lou Correa. (Irfan Khan, Los Angeles Times)

As Orange County voting officials and volunteers inspected ballots Tuesday in a recount of a razor-close supervisor election, the losing candidate said he was pushing to unearth "irregularities" in the race.

Lou Correa, a former state legislator who lost last month's election by only 43 votes to Andrew Do, said his campaign has received reports of voters being paid small amounts of cash — $10 to $25 — for their absentee ballots


Correa said they also received reports of people outside the 1st Supervisorial District being allowed to vote or individuals voting multiple times.

So far, his team has not produced evidence of such wrongdoing and Correa has not requested a formal investigation. He has, though, set up a hotline asking people to share information or pass along tips.

The Orange County district attorney's office said the only complaint it has been asked to investigate involved a woman who wrongly believed she had voted twice at a precinct in Little Saigon, Orange County's sprawling Vietnamese American community.

Meanwhile, the time-consuming task of hand-counting ballots and inspecting provisional ballots continued with representatives from both Correa and Do's camp observing the process. The country registrar even set up a video link so the public could watch the slow-moving process.

This week, Correa's representatives challenged ballots cast by people who were registered at addresses outside the 1st District. They had found about 30 such ballots, which Registrar Neal Kelley said he allowed because the voters indicated on an outside envelope that they had moved into the district before the election.

Fred Woocher, Correa's attorney, said he'd seen the same name on 27 emergency ballots. Emergency ballots can be requested in the days before an election by people who are ill, disabled or plan to be out of town.

Woocher said he was also concerned by reports that more than 100 absentee ballots were dropped off at several polling places on election day.

"Now, did someone drop off these ballots en masse?" Woocher asked. "That's an unusually high number showing up."

But the challenges did little to move the needle on the results of the election, and Correa said he doubted the outcome will change, but that he wanted to make sure that "every vote counted is a valid vote."

Monday's recount of ballots was handled by 12 workers and cost Correa $2,400. On Tuesday, with the focus shifting to the provisional ballots, only one monitor was needed, costing about $589, Kelley said.

The process will continue Wednesday.

Do, an attorney with little experience holding public office, pulled an upset with his victory over Correa, who has held a county supervisor's seat before.

The victory was seen by some political observers as another demonstration of the powerful voting bloc in the Vietnamese American community, where the ethnic media covers almost every appearance and utterance in local political contests.

Do's predecessor, Janet Nguyen, pulled off a similar upset in 2007 when she upended Assemblymen Tom Umberg, by far the best known politician on the ballot. Umberg finished in third place, behind another little-known Vietnamese American candidate.

In November, Nguyen was elected to the state Senate, easily beating former Assemblyman Jose Solorio, another prominent political figure.

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