In Closed Session

While the world is consumed with the coronavirus right now and how to be respond, the clock still is ticking on the March 3 primary.

You remember that primary, don't you? People went to central voting centers, stood in line together, etc. The more politically active folks were knocking on people's doors, trying to speak to potential voters face to face.

The world has turned on its side in the last three weeks. People still stand in line, but with a shopping cart between them. It takes a truly dedicated politico to talk elections.

But the fact is, that March 3 election is going to impact lives once we come out the other side of this pandemic. And we will come out. Honest.

Our faithful Los Angeles County Clerk & Recorder, Dean Logan, has provided an interesting distraction to the coronavirus drumbeat. On Friday, March 20, he released a seventh update of the ongoing vote count.

There's still about 20,100 ballots still to be counted or otherwise dealt with. But since there were more than 2 million ballots cast in Los Angeles County, the results are pretty much final.

Or are they?

While most of the Long Beach issues on the ballot are indeed resolved — there will be runoffs in all three contested City Council races, as well as one of the two Long Beach Unified School District board seats. It's Robert Fox and Cindy Allen in the Second District, Suely Saro and Dee Andrews in the Sixth, Tunua Thrash-Ntuk and Al Austin in the Eighth and Tonia Reyes Uranga and Erik Miller in the District 2 LBUSD board race.

Doug Otto will replace Jon Meyer on the LBUSD board representing District 4 — the only outright winner of the election. And Measure B, the proposal to increase the Transient Occupancy Tax — hotel bed tax— by 1% to benefit arts and cultural organizations as well as work on the Convention and Entertainment Center, coasted to victory with a nearly 20% margin.

But I've buried the lead. That is the result, or non-result, of the Measure A initiative. Measure A is the indefinite extension of a 1% sales tax increase approved in 2016 — with a 10-year sunset clause. It was supported by Mayor Robert Garcia and the City Council as essential to maintaining public safety gains, continuing progress on infrastructure work and meeting a $25 million obligation to help pay for earthquake-proofing Community Hospital of Long Beach.

The campaign was contentious, and the results inconclusive. After the latest count, there is a 130-vote difference between the yeses and noes, with the noes in the lead. That's with 98,260 votes counted; a 0.14% margin.

If this were a city-run election, that miniscule margin would mean an automatic recount. But this is a county-run election, and there is no such thing as an automatic recount there.

Instead, you have to wait until the results have been certified — expected on April 10 — and then you can ask for a recount. According to Michael Sanchez, the communications specialist in the County Clerk's office, a recount can be done by running ballots through the tally again or it could be done by hand — but there is a higher cost associated for hand-counted ballots.

And the entity that asks for the recount gets to pay for it.

That shouldn't be an issue for the pro-Measure A group. That campaign was extremely well financed and likely has enough left over to call for a recount. But there is a deadline to make the request.

Considering the all-consuming coronavirus situation, it's going to be a stretch to care about a recount. But, fingers crossed, the crisis will abate before April 10.

This may not be important now, but the coronavirus crisis will make the sales tax result even more important once the crisis abates. City government is going to be looked to for relief as we resume life, and the leaders must know what resources they have to deal with the recovery.

A definitive election result has to come sooner rather than later.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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