A recount prompted by the discovery of a glitch in a Kings County voting machine has changed the outcome of an Assembly primary.
Democratic incumbent Rudy Salas of Bakersfield, who was thought to be trailing by 4 percentage points, has defeated Republican challenger Justin Mendes of Hanford after all — by 252 votes.
The reversal of fortunes was first reported by GV Wire, a Fresno-based news and information website.
Until certified results came out June 26, Mendes led Salas in the District 32 race covering Kings and Kern counties.
After election night, Mendes, a Hanford city councilman, led Salas 52 percent to 48 percent. The numbers held as more votes came in — until the final Kings County results were corrected June 26, GV Wire reports.
The revised total gave Salas the victory by 1 percentage point, or 252 votes. For what that's worth, anyway: The two will face off again in the November general election. Mendes and Salas were the only two candidates, and California’s top-two system allows both to advance.
Kings County Assessor/Clerk-Recorder Kristine Lee told GV Wire that a voting machine double-counted one run of the ballots through the machine. A run can include multiple precincts. It added the results of the run onto the next run counted. When reviewing results before certifying, Lee noticed that the vote count for one precinct was too high.
“One precinct had way too many votes. It didn’t make sense. So, we re-ran those votes,” Lee told GV Wire.
The machines, made by Dominion Voting Systems, have been in place since 2000. County officials purchased at least one of the two machines used.
“We’ve been in the process of trying to replace those machines,” Lee said. “I’m hoping before the next election we might be able to do that.”
Lee said this problem has never happened before, but they’ve had other glitches. She is unsure of why the machine failed in this instance.
“The prior results were preliminary, but the results that were updated on the website today are accurate and will be the certified results for Kings County. This is an example as to why testing subsequent to the elections is so very important,” Lee said.
"I admire the hard-working people in the county elections offices," Salas told The Californian in a statement June 28. "They do an incredible job under enormous pressure and always end up getting it right. I look forward to a successful general election campaign — work hard, listen to voters, and respect the opinions of those throughout the district."
According to Rob Pyers of the California Target Book, the revision affected a total of 1,854 votes — 1,230 of those for Mendes.
Mendes said that he isn’t worried about the reversal. He noted that Salas has many advantages like a 22 percent Democratic voter registration, campaign spending and incumbency.
“The best he can do is 250? I bet he is nervous headed into November,” Mendes told GV Wire.