In today’s Recorder we told the story of election lawyer Steven Churchwell, a DLA partner who’s monitoring the uber-close vote tally in California’s Fourth Congressional District for Democrat Charlie Brown. Well this morning the lawyer for Brown’s Republican opponent, Tom McClintock, called to mention that he’s a little busy too.
“This is what we in the business call harvest season,” said Ben Davidian, a Sacramento elections lawyer who chaired the Fair Political Practices Commission between 1991 and 1995.
Actually, Davidian was chatting while driving to meet Churchwell. The two are former colleagues at the FPPC and they were going to carpool together to Nevada County, where the vote count has hit a few speed bumps. Opposing attorneys carpooling?
“We’re trying to be green,” said Davidian, who sung Churchwell’s praises even though he’s hoping his client loses.
The Secretary of State’s office reports that as of this morning McClintock is leading by fewer than 600 votes with perhaps thousands of ballots left to count in the nine-county district. An incident on Thursday reflects the kind of work these attorneys do. Davidian tells the story this way: Nevada County election workers discovered, in what they had thought was an empty bag, an estimated 125 to 200 uncounted ballots from a Truckee-area precinct. No one was sure how they got there, how long they’d been there or who’d had access to them.
Nevada County’s vote has gone to Brown since election night, although the Truckee-area tally generally went to McClintock, Davidian said. No one was quite sure what to do with the recovered ballots, so the two attorneys headed to Nevada City today to chat with the registrar and county counsel. After an examination of the ballot revealed only 74 ballots, the two lawyers blessed the contrite registrar’s decision to process the votes, with both sides convinced the ensuing tally wouldn’t swing the eventual outcome.
Davidian isn’t happy about the situation, but he shrugs it off to some extent.
“I’ve done dozen of these elections,” he said. “Goofy things happen.”
Like Churchwell, Davidian says that while the vote counting can be tedious, he’s still smitten with the election process.
“To watch the process, to make sure the process is done right, is everything to me.”
— Cheryl Miller