Just 370 votes separate the two contestants as of midweek and nearly 80,431 ballots from the June 5 primary remain uncounted, according to the county registrar.
In an interview, County Registrar Neal Kelley said his office aims to complete tallying the final ballots on or before June 26, though state law gives him 30 days to certify the election results.
About 45,000 of the uncounted votes are so-called provisional ballots, those where the residency, signature or district of the voter could not be determined on election day, Kelley said. Of those, 12,000 are from congressional District 48, he said.
The remaining uncounted ballots are vote-by-mail ballots that arrived late or were dropped off on Election Day. Both the Keirstead and Rouda camps have volunteers in the registrar’s office monitoring review of the late-arriving ballots and challenging 30 or 40 a day, said Kyle Quinn, Keirstead’s campaign manager. Kelley himself reviews the challenged ballots. “He wants to make votes count,” Quinn said.
The 15-term incumbent, Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from Costa Mesa, received the most primary votes with 30.6 percent of the ballots cast, giving him a clear path to the midterm election in November. He represents a district that spans coastal Orange County from Seal Beach to Laguna Niguel.
No one is definitively declaring victory yet for the second District 48 spot in the top-two primary, though Kelley said of the vote spread, “in our world, it’s not close.”
Based on the most recent figures available Wednesday, June 13, Keirstead leads with 17.3 percent of the vote to Rouda’s 17.1 percent. Scott Baugh, a Republican who came in fourth with 16.2 percent of the vote, has conceded and endorsed the incumbent. The other 12 candidates in the contest received less than 5 percent of the vote.
“Here’s the real question: as these uncounted ballots have been counted, has Keirstead’s lead gone up or has it gone down?” asked Mark Petracca, a UC Irvine political science professor. When the election night ended, Rouda was ahead by 73 votes. He’s now down by more than 300.
“The likelihood that Rouda can catch up and pass Keirstead seems unlikely; not impossible, but unlikely,” Petracca said.
Democrat candidates were to hold a unity rally Wednesday in Heisler Park.
Elsewhere in town, the November race for three City Council seats promises to be a competitive battle with six declared candidates so far and one incumbent, Toni Iseman, still undeclared on the sidelines.
Gallerist Peter Blake and former council member and accountant Cheryl Kinsman are the newest to join the contest. Others who have previously declared are two candidates who made unsuccessful runs for the same office earlier, Michelle Hall and Judie Mancuso; incumbent Rob Zur Schmiede; and a planning commission member, Sue Kempf.
Blake said he decided to run for office because he couldn’t support the positions of the other declared candidates. If elected, he said he would prioritize his top issues as crime and the homeless situation; a lack of property rights and relaxing regulations for design review and historical preservation; and removing what he describes as the “stranglehold” of Village Laguna, an organization that preserves village character, in influencing policy decisions.
Kinsman, who could not immediately be reached for comment, was twice elected to the City Council, beginning in 2000. She describes herself as a fiscal conservative and regards her work retaining a hospital in town as her most important civic contribution during eight years in office.