MODESTO -- Bummed out but not bitter.
That describes Bill Berryhill, who lost a close state Senate race to Cathleen Galgiani last month, including the unusual circumstance of appearing to be the winner, only to have the results change as more ballots were counted.
After taking some time for duck hunting, Berryhill told me he's back on his ranch "enjoying pruning grapes like never before."
He says he won't be running for political office again. He served 11 years on the Ceres school board and then four years in the state Assembly. While he's had enough, he isn't sour on politics and in fact he recommends that people run for office, at least once. "It's a great experience, a very frustrating experience but also very fulfilling and exciting."
Berryhill went to Sacramento as an ag-oriented conservative. His biggest focus was delta water issues and he says he'll continue to work on those, both because has an interest but also because he has "skin in the game" as someone who farms in that area.
Although he came from a family heavily involved in politics and brother Tom remains in the state Senate Bill Berryhill also struck me as one of those people who did not live and die politics. When I ran into him occasionally, he would be as likely to want to talk about one of his three children as about Capitol happenings.
In 2008, Berryhill signed the now-infamous no-new-tax pledge, but he also maintained that his signature didn't amount to a lifetime commitment. So in 2011, he was among the Republican legislators negotiating with the governor right down to the wire about tax increases and pension reform. In the end, that didn't produce a compromise and this year Gov. Jerry Brown took his tax proposal directly to the voters as Proposition 30.
Berryhill believes that the campaigns promoting Proposition 30 and opposing Proposition 32 largely union financed reached voters who ended up supporting Galgiani. It's a logical conclusion. On election night, he appeared to have a safe lead, but that vanished as provisional ballots were counted.
"They (Galgiani's campaign) did a much better job of getting those new voters who registered online," Berryhill observed.
The deadline to register to vote was Oct. 22. In late September, the Secretary of State's office made it possible for people to register online and many of those who did so were young people whose preference for doing things online is well documented. Furthermore, many of those young people were college students, inclined to support Proposition 30 and Democrats. Because they registered at or near the deadline, many of those young voters had to use provisional ballots.
Stanislaus County had a record 11,000 provisional ballots in the Nov. 6 election, and Clerk- Recorder Lee Lundrigan suggests the number is likely to rise in the next statewide election in 2014, when California will allow same-day voter registration. There were a million provisional ballots in California last month, so the pattern is not unique to our county.
What is a provisional ballot? Actually, it's the same ballot that others get, but because there are some questions about the eligibility of the person using it, it goes in a pink envelope and is set aside to confirm it is valid.
Who gets a provisional ballot? A citizen who says he or she can't remember if she voted by mail seriously! or who shows up at the polling place saying he or she lost her mail ballot. Sometimes people don't know whether they are registered to vote or are registered at their new address.
For those of us who vote every election and have lived in the same house for years, all this uncertainty seems unusual, maybe even suspicious. But it's not for those who usually only participate in presidential elections and-or have moved several times in recent years.
Lundrigan told the county supervisors that provisional ballots are "designed to allow as many voters as possible to vote without allowing people to vote twice."
The big disadvantage to provisional ballots? They're time consuming for elections officials, who have to make sure that a voter didn't vote at a polling place or send in a mail ballot before allowing the provisional ballot to be counted. And then there's the challenge of comparing the signature on file to the one on the ballot envelope.
Cynics and conspiracy theorists want to believe voter fraud is rampant. I think it's rare; voter confusion, however, is widespread.
Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, announced his new committee assignments for the congressional term that begins in January. He'll continue on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and has been named to the Agriculture Committee.
Typically members only serve on two committees, but Denham is seeking permission to serve on a third committee, either Veterans Affairs or Natural Resources.
Sly is editor of the Opinions pages. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2317 or on Twitter @judysly.