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Joe Holland on Slow Vote Count: "We're in Uncharted Territory"; Why Das Underperformed & Joan Overperformed

Roy Lee clung to a 510 vote lead over Das Williams in the too-close-to-call First District Board of Supervisors race on Friday, as Santa Barbara County elections chief Joe Holland said state laws that make it increasingly easy to vote have put his office "in uncharted territory."

"People are changing their behaviors for voting, which is all okay," Holland told Newsmakers shortly after election workers posted a new tranche of votes for contests and ballot measures in Tuesday's election. "I'm not complaining by any means - we want more people to vote."

The latest tally from the First District boosted turnout there to almost 37 percent, compared to less than 30 percent in Third and Fourth Districts, which also had elections for board seats:

Roy Lee. 10,017 51.16 percent

Das Williams 9,507 48.55 percent

As the world awaited final word on the Black Swan race of the year, Gwyn Lurie Josh Molina and Dale Francisco joined the genial host on this week's edition of Newsmakers TV to go behind the scenes, and practice some plenteous punditry, not only about the First District contest, but also about the results in the Third District, where SupervisorJoan Hartmann surprised the cognoscenti by winning six of every 10 votes in a newly drawn district that was mistakenly expected to have created some ideological challenges for the liberal incumbent,

The gang goes full Mt. Olympus with some lofty thoughts about the failure of the Democratic Party to use persuasion as a political strategy that would expand their coalition, the future, if any, of the Republican Party in Santa Barbara and throughout California, and the flops and favorable outcomes in the campaign for the U.S. Senate and Gavin Newsom's effort to squeeze another $6.5 billion out of taxpayers for his latest Big Idea social engineering schemes for homelessness and housing, aka Proposition 1.

Plus: an elegy for the lost art of the gracious political concession.

Holland redux. Joe Holland, whose formal title is Santa Barbara County Clerk, Recorder, Assessor and Registrar of Voters (breathe) portrayed the apparently slow count of some 41,000 ballots uncounted on Election Night as continued growing pains in coping with the all-mail ballot systems the state cranked up during the pandemic, in part to encourage more participation.

"We don't know yet how the trends are going to go," he said, adding that there were dramatic differences between the uncertain pace and volume of ballots submitted under still-new rules, and the methods in place even five years ago when, he said, planning for elections "used to be like a wedding."

Holland said that "turnout was more than I thought" and that elections officials were surprised not only by "tons of ballots dropped off Election Day," but also by the "huge number of ballots" voters placed in mailboxes on Tuesday alone, which officially was still "Election Day" -- even though ballots were sent to voters 29 days earlier and could be submitted at any time.

"I was totally surprised to see how many came in in the mail," Holland said, noting that ballots postmarked by Tuesday were still arriving in his office on Friday; any ballots with a proper postmark that arrive through next Tuesday are to be counted.

"We're in uncharted territory," he said.

With political anxiety over the Das-Roy contest ratcheting up, Holland said the next ballot count will be reported on Thursday (March 14), which he hopes will be the final tranche.

"I know it's frustrating and I'm sympathetic about people wanting to know who won," in the First District, he said. "People need to be patient. People are just going to have to wait."


Check out the new edition of Newsmakers TV via YouTube below, or by clicking through this link. The podcast version is here. TVSB, Channel 17, broadcasts the show every weeknight at 8 p.m. and at 9 a.m. on weekends. KCSB, 91.9 FM, airs the program at 5:30 p.m. on Monday.

Images: High Anxiety (; Joe Holland (Santa Barbara County).

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