After San Joaquin County announced the results of absentee ballot counting Wednesday, Nov. 10, Harmer had picked up 813 more votes on McNerney in the county but still trailed districtwide by 1,681 votes out of a total 231,003 cast, as of midday Thursday, Nov. 11.
Shortly after San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters Austin Erdman released the updated totals, McNerney’s campaign announced that the distance between the Democratic incumbent and Harmer was an “insurmountable lead,” with the “vast majority” of ballots counted.
Erdman, who remains politically neutral during elections, said Wednesday he didn’t anticipate the distance between McNerney and Harmer to change significantly because of the 8,000 or so provisional ballots that had yet to be counted in San Joaquin County. He said it would be statistically unusual for the provisional ballots to make up the 1,700-vote gap between the two men.
Sarah Hersh, McNerney’s campaign manager, made another statement Thursday after the congressman’s declared victory that largely looked ahead to two more years in the House of Representatives.
“Congressman McNerney will continue serving the needs of the people he represents,” Hersh wrote. “He received dozens of bipartisan endorsements and will keep working across the aisle to create jobs and improve the lives of the people he serves.
“…He’ll be an independent voice for this area and stand up for what’s right.”
Harmer’s campaign announced the same day, however, that the Republican would see the counting “through to the end.”
Campaign manager Cameron Wilkinson said in a statement that Harmer’s team is “…engaged in an intensive ballot security operation. We’re monitoring the vote counting process each day and keeping track of how many ballots are outstanding.”
Those ballots, he noted, could tip the scales back in the favor of the challenger.
“Thousands of ballots remain to be counted, so it’s not over. We’ll see the process through to the end,” he wrote.
Indeed, all numbers and leads as of now are preliminary. Election results have not yet been certified, and official results from the California Secretary of State might not be known until the end of November.
Regardless of the outcome, Wilkinson said he was proud of the campaign Harmer ran.
“However this election turns out, we’ll have a clear conscience. We left it all on the field. I’m certain that we did everything possible — within the bounds of morality and ethics — to secure a victory in California’s 11th District.”
Right up to Election Day, both campaigns said that the 11th District race was expected to be one of the closest in the country, and it lived up to its billing.
Harmer led the early returns Nov. 2 and into the morning the next day, but as the counting continued, McNerney slowly crept into the lead across the four-county district.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Harmer had outdistanced McNerney by 5,159 votes in San Joaquin County, which accounts for about 53 percent of the district’s voters. But McNerney made up the gap in Alameda (5,777) and Santa Clara (1,186) counties, while Harmer led by 123 in Contra Costa County.
Observers from both the Harmer and McNerney campaigns were present during vote counting throughout the district. In San Joaquin County, where Erdman reported no problems with the tally, about 20 observers pressed into the registrar’s office Wednesday as workers ran the final absentee ballots through counting machines.
Things went less smoothly elsewhere in the 11th District.
In Contra Costa County, Harmer’s campaign challenged the way voters’ signatures on vote-by-mail ballots were verified. Ultimately, campaign observers were allowed to watch closely as workers checked to see whether signatures matched between ballots and voter rolls, though neither McNerney’s nor Harmer’s campaign was allowed to challenge individual signatures.
In Santa Clara County, ink smudges affected some ballots, but registrar of voters spokeswoman Elma Rosas said those problems were known before the election, and every ballot that was smudged was cleaned.
“(We have) literally done every one of those ballots that came in. … It’s been taken care of,” she said earlier this week.
No problems were reported in Alameda County.
It’s not yet known whether there will be a recount.
However, Harmer’s campaign has sent out requests to supporters for donations that will be put into a “recount fund,” which the e-mail states could be used to help cover the costs of monitoring either the ongoing count of ballots or any possible recount.
McNerney’s campaign did not comment about a recount, stating the issue would be addressed when and if such a request were made.