For whatever reason, people have not very often exercised their right to have election results counted a second time in Stanislaus County. It's common that small-city elections are decided by a handful of votes, and local races have ended in a tie.
People requesting a recount must write a check for the cost, and they'll be writing bigger numbers in the future. Former Riverbank Mayor Virginia Madueño claims she was blindsided by the cost for the Dec. 10 recount for the City of Action's mayoral race. The recount lasted just five hours before her campaign saw it was futile. Seven weeks later, the county election office told the campaign it was keeping a $2,400 deposit and said the Madueño camp owed a $7,817 balance. The total cost for the recount: $10,217.28.
"Please do not hesitate to contact this office if you have any questions or concerns," wrote accountant Cheryl Phillips of the registrar of voters office.
A flurry of correspondence has gone back and forth since then. And the balance is still due.
Registrar of Voters Lee Lundrigan said she's obligated to recover the costs for taxpayers, and that apparently didn't happen when her office charged $1,875 to recount the 2008 road tax measure, which failed by a whisker.
Bill Bassitt, treasurer for the Yes on S Committee, recalled that the committee's attorney advised it to set aside $3,000 for the recount and try a hand count. Bassitt said they were told the vote-counting machine would simply produce the same tally. The recount was abandoned halfway through the first day.
Lundrigan will be challenged on her new cost-accounting approach for recounts and be expected to strike a balance between fiscal rectitude and the public's right to double-check elections.
She said her office welcomes people to learn about the vote-counting process. There always are people monitoring the election-night tally. Election workers physically count very close races under the watchful eyes of monitors. Anyone with concerns about the results can follow the canvas of precincts after the election.
"Should candidates wish to talk with us and have us explain how it works, we are open and available to do that," Lundrigan said. "We encourage them to ask questions so they fully understand the process."
Madueño supporters wish her office had been more clear with estimates for the Dec. 10 count. Assembly Bill 2959 would have ensured that a person requesting a recount be given an itemized estimate, but the bill was vetoed.
CHARITY CARE HEAD- SCRATCHER On the health beat, an Assembly bill authored by two Bay Area Democrats would force nonprofit hospitals to provide a minimum level of charity care starting in 2015. That would come a year after the federal health care law requires most Americans including people who walk into emergency rooms to have health insurance.
In a recent statement, the California Hospital Association called Assembly Bill 975 a bad solution at the wrong time. "The number of uninsured residents in California is expected to drop by more than 4 million people starting next year" with the federal law, the CHA said. "As many more people gain health coverage, it would be impossible for any hospital to comply with AB 975."
The industry group is concerned that affected hospitals could be forced to cut their emergency departments, trauma services and neonatal care. In Stanislaus County, hospitals with the not-for-profit status include Memorial Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente's Modesto hospital and Oak Valley Hospital in Oakdale.
Emanuel Medical Center of Turlock will shed its nonprofit status when it's acquired by Tenet Healthcare Corp. later this year.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2321.