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Final count shakes up two races: San Carlos, E. Palo Alto elections go down to the wire and then some

By Justin Jouvenal, STAFF WRITER

SAN MATEO Late vote counts have reversed elections results in East Palo Alto and San Carlos, after County officials completed a review of more than 10,000 absentee and provisional ballots.

Incumbent Samuel Rasheed won back his seat on the East Palo Alto Sanitary District board after being down by a single vote to newcomer Cindy Winterbauer on election day, Nov. 4.

And Thomas Quiggle squeaked by Valorie Keller by just seven votes for a seat on the San Carlos School board after trailing Keller by 39 votes in the semi-official tally.

"I'm shocked," said Quiggle, who was left nearly speechless after learning of his victory. "This is fantastic. This was obviously a very close race."

The results created a dramatic finish to an election season overshadowed by the recall of Gov. Gray Davis. About 11,000 votes of the 81,000 cast were left to count after the semi-official results were announced on Nov. 4.

The results of four other close elections remained unchanged after the official results were released: Millbrae City Council, Menlo Park Fire Protection District, Portola Valley School District and Half Moon Bay Fire Protection District.

However in the Half Moon Bay race, incumbent Roger S. Pimentel pulled within five votes of a seat on the board. He was beaten by challengers Bert Silva and David Eufusia.

The most closely watched race after the election was the East Palo Alto Sanitary board because Rasheed trailed by just one vote. That turned around in the final tally, where Rasheed

came in second out of nine candidates vying for three four-year terms.

Cindy Winterbauer, who was ahead of Rasheed on election night, placed sixth, two votes behind Scott Argus and one vote behind Betsy Yanez. Larry Moody remained in first place and Hab Siam slipped from second to third place, seven votes behind Rasheed and 21 ahead of Argus.

Rasheed said he'd thought if it was meant to be, he'd win in the end. "It's God's will," he said, and he also thanked the voters.

With so many close races, the possibility of recounts was raised Friday.

"As soon as the elections ended, we got a few requests for recount procedures," said David Tom, the County's elections manager. "But so far we have not received any formal request."

Tom said anyone in the County can call for a recount in any race, but it must come within five days of the elections' official certification. That will happen on Monday.

The requester must pay for a recount, unless the result changes. It can cost anywhere from $400 to $2,000, depending on whether it's a machine or hand tally.

At least one candidate, Scott Argus, said he would likely not be interested in a recount. Winterbauer and Valorie Keller could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Though the election drew a meager turnout of only 24 percent, County elections officials had to cope with approximately 41,000 absentee ballots or about 51 percent of votes cast. There were also about 1,000 provisional ballots to count after election day.

It was the first time in such a large election that more voters cast absentee ballots than went to the polls, Tom said. The high number made vote counting slow.

Each absentee and provisional ballot must be verified. The signatures on absentee ballots must be compared to one on record, while elections officials must ensure a provisional voter is qualified to cast a ballot in the County.

Tom said the number of absentees has increased because of a change in voting law, and because more and more voters like the ease and convenience of voting from home.

The new voting law enacted last year allows any registered voter to become a permanent absentee voter. Previously, a voter had to demonstrate a specific illness or impediment or be the primary care giver for such a voter.

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