The Los Angeles County Registrar is minimizing charges of vote-counting misconduct leveled by campaign surrogates in California's 39th Congressional District.
Since Friday, Republican former Assemblywoman Young Kim and Democrat Gil Cisneros, a Navy veteran and lottery winner, have traded accusations that surrogates for their campaigns have either intimidated or improperly handled ballots during the tedious, ongoing vote-counting process.
Tens of thousands of votes have not yet been counted in the race. As of early Tuesday, the two sides were fewer than 2,000 votes apart with the campaigns expecting updated tallies Tuesday night from the three counties that contribute a portion of votes to the district.
After an intense volley of allegations of vote-counting misconduct Monday from both campaigns, the Los Angeles County Registrar declined to say which side was at fault.
Instead it downplayed the charges, noting that campaign observers were asked to leave in only "a handful (3 or 4) cases without further incidence."
"We have not addressed anything related to ballot tampering or physical tampering with ballots," a spokeswoman for the registrar told the Washington Free Beacon Tuesday. "Our process is transparent and secured. We orient [sic] observer to the process and go over the rules for observation."
"If observers are not following the rules, they are warned, and after repeated incidents, asked to leave, which has only happened in a handful (3 or 4) cases without further incidence."
Dean Logan, the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder and clerk, issued a broader response to the Kim-Cisneros campaign infighting that also avoided saying whether either campaign, their representatives, or political party representatives had violated vote-counting rules.
"We respect the role of public and political observers in the electoral process," he said in a statement. "We have a responsibility to conduct the canvass with transparency; absent disruption or political influence. We meet daily with lead observers from the campaigns and address issues, if any, as they arise."
The Kim campaign late Monday said Cisneros surrogates observing officials counting votes in Los Angeles County tried to intimidate and harass them and earned at least one rebuke from the Los Angeles County Registrar's office over the weekend for what it called "physical ballot tampering."
"These nefarious actions reflect a campaign that knows a majority of voters cast their ballots electing Young Kim, and as a result, will do anything in their desperate effort to change the results," Kim campaign manager Patrick Mocete said in a statement.
Kim then tweeted that she is "standing up for the democratic process, the will of the majority of voters, and is emphatically committed to every legal vote begin counted."
The Cisneros campaign then accused the Kim team of "blatantly lying" about the incident and said three Kim campaign surrogates were escorted out of the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters building over the weekend.
Cisneros campaign spokesman Nic Jordan said that two other Kim representatives "were caught" by Los Angeles County employees while "flipping through ballots and taking photographs on Sunday night and were asked to leave the building.
"I welcome the news that the Young Kim campaign will work to ensure all ballots are counted in an orderly and timely manner, as their actions from the last several days would suggest otherwise," he said.
Cisneros also tweeted out a thank you to his supporters and pledged to ensure that every ballot is counted.
"The Cisneros team is very proud of the democratic momentum that everyone helped build in the 39th, & we'll continue to work to ensure every ballot is counted and every voice is heard," he said in the tweet.
The vote-counting in the 39th district is complicated because the seat is made up of a cross-section of Orange, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles counties, all of which exercise different vote-counting observation and challenge rules.
Thousands of mail-in ballots that were sent to the registrar on Election Day arrived in the days after the election, leading to some disputes. State law allows mail-in ballots to arrive as late as 8 p.m. Friday and still be counted, as long as they were postmarked no later than Election Day.
Additionally, part of the late vote-counting process involves ensuring that the signature that appears on the cast ballot matches signatures used when registering to vote. Under a new California law, voters whose signatures are in dispute are sent letters giving them an opportunity to correct or verify their signatures.
The 39th district is one of three congressional races in California that are still too close to call as Democrats have gained ground in late vote-counting. In California's 45th district, GOP Rep. Mimi Walters is leading Democrat Katie Porter by just 1,011 votes at last count. In the Central Valley's 10th district, over the weekend, Democrat Josh Harder gained a 3,362 vote lead over GOP Rep. Jeff Denham.