By Jim Ellis
Nov. 18, 2016 — California’s two uncalled congressional races are still not complete because of a counting process moving at what feels like a glacial pace.
In Sacramento County’s 7th District, Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove) is in a political overtime situation for the third consecutive election. The latest count finds the congressman garnering 119,448 votes (51.0 percent) as compared to Sheriff Scott Jones’ (R) 114,646 tallies (49.0 percent). Despite being 10 days beyond the election, an estimated 67,000+ District 7 ballots await tabulation.
With Bera leading here by 4,802 votes, and assuming the outstanding ballots estimate is correct, Jones would need to garner at least 53.5 percent of uncounted votes to overtake the incumbent. Since these ballots are mail-only, either from the regular mail, provisional, or overseas voting options, it is unlikely that the remaining tallies are from a particular set of precincts or region. This means it is difficult to gauge whether these votes are predominantly Democratic or Republican. Rather, the mailed votes are probably dispersed uniformly throughout the district.
The 7th CD is wholly contained within Sacramento County and occupies 49.54 percent of the local entity’s territory. Since the county election officials report that 136,644 ballots remain to be processed, simply taking half of the number allows us to arrive at the conclusion that approximately 67,000 ballots are destined for the 7th District.
Turning to Southern California, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) finds himself in a similar situation to that of his colleague, Ami Bera. In the 49th District, largely contained within San Diego County but also annexing a small part of Orange County, Issa maintains a 50.9 percent – 49.1 percent advantage (123,086 to 118,464) over retired Marine Colonel Doug Applegate (D). Issa’s raw vote margin is 4,622. Based upon an estimated outstanding vote projection of just over 90,000, Applegate would need to secure at least 52.5 percent of the uncounted ballots to come back and win this election.
The counting here is a bit different from the Sacramento district. Just about 77 percent of the 49th District is in San Diego County, and here challenger Applegate ran ahead of incumbent Issa. In fact, at this point, Applegate enjoys a San Diego margin of 4,647 votes. But, Issa’s strong advantage in Orange County, though only a quarter of the district, allowed him to overtake Applegate. Here, Issa commanded 61 percent of the vote, which translated into a lead of 14,827 votes, more than enough to negate Applegate’s San Diego margin and put distance between he and his challenger.
Considering the remaining ballots, only about 8,500 remain in Issa’s Orange County stronghold, while approximately 81,000-plus sit in San Diego. Splitting the two counties in the way the counted ballots broke, a very tight finish is in store.
Should Orange County remain consistent with what has already been reported, Issa can expect to pad his lead with another 2,000-plus votes, meaning a total advantage of about 6,600.
Countering with Applegate’s San Diego County totals, and assuming he does as well with the late mail votes as he did with those already in the published count, he should add another 4,500 votes or so to his margin. If these estimates prove accurate, Rep. Issa will probably win the final count by about 2,000 votes from a projected turnout of approximately 331,000.
While we can expect the counting to go into next week and perhaps beyond Thanksgiving, it now appears that both incumbents Bera and Issa will survive in in what proved to be very tight re-election contests.