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Mendez, Kelley Declared Winners After Second Recount of Ballots in Norwalk

By Brian Hews

Norwalk Mayor Cheri Kelley and Councilman Mike Mendez have emerged as the official winners of the Tuesday, March 5th city council election nearly two weeks after voters went to the polls.

On Monday City Clerk Teresa DeVoy called for a machine recount of all of the votes cast after releasing a written statement late last week.

Mendez topped the field of candidates and Kelley edged out challenger Enrique Aranda by a mere 33 votes.

Included in the recount was both Kelley and Aranda, as well as supporters of their campaigns.

“Through the required Manual Tally process for this election in which we hand-counted the votes for one randomly selected precinct, the votes for Precinct 17 were tabulated and it was noted that the outcome differed from the machine count,” DeVoy said.

DeVoy pointed out that the balloting result totals increased by 7 votes spread among four candidates.

“Upon examination of the ballots in the Poll box it was determined that two ballots should have been highlighted and 1 ballot should have been duplicated on Election Day in order for the machine to effectively count the votes on those ballots, and as a result, 5 votes were not counted by the machine,” DeVoy explained.

She went on to state that “additionally, it appears that 1 ballot from the VBM box was not read properly, and two votes were not counted as a result.  This result is an anomaly, and while we were able to determine the cause, I have concerns that there may be other ballots that weren’t counted correctly.”

“As the Elections Official it is my responsibility to ensure that the integrity of this and all elections is preserved and trusted.   Therefore, I have decided to order a re-examination of the ballots and machine recount,” DeVoy told the sparse crowd on Monday during the beginning of the recount.

“We are going to make sure that this process is conducted perfectly so we can be guaranteed that the final results are totally accurate,” DeVoy told Los Cerritos Community Newspaper.

Aranda campaign consultant Frank Negrete, as well as Aranda’s life partner Dr. Sandra Salazar closely watched over the shoulders of the eight ballot counters who reviewed each and every ballot before being machined tabulated.

Several of the ballots were highlighted with a light blue marker to cover the name of the candidate to whom received the vote to “make sure the ballot is counted properly,” DeVoy said.

Salazar, who is the current Clerk of the Board of Trustees at Cerritos College and Negrete, a noted political advisor to several local elected officials and candidates in Southern California, asked DeVoy on a number of occasions if certain ballots were being properly tabulated on Monday.

“One ballot we saw voted for every single candidate, and one voter wrote in the names Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti who are both running for mayor in Los Angeles,” Negrete quipped during the recount.

Aranda also claimed that more than “20 ballots” were rejected by DeVoy and that they would “not be counted.”  DeVoy confirmed that there were “rejected ballots” but did not give a specific number to Los Cerritos Community Newspaper.

After all of the ballots were recounted on Monday, there were several vote tally changes from the original count, but DeVoy said that final results showed that “Councilman Mendez and Mayor Kelley have been reelected.”

Here is the final results of the Norwalk City Council Election and how many votes each candidate picked up after the machine recount: Mike Mendez 1925, a pickup of 7 votes; Cheri Kelley, 1885, a pickup of 7 votes; Enrique Aranda, 1852, a pickup of 6 votes; Daryl Adams, 1537, a pickup of 6 votes; Candy Martinez, 867 no change in recount and Brian Mesinas 306 votes, a pickup of 1 vote.

“I want to make sure that the integrity of the ballots were not compromised in the process,” Aranda said.  He did not comment if he would request a third recount, one conducted by hand “so each and every ballot could be verified.”  If Aranda asks for a recount it could personally cost his campaign as much as $7,000 to $10,000 per day.

Four years ago, Kelley and Mendez were involved in a hand recount after then challenger Marcel Rodarte finished less than two dozen votes behind Mendez for the second and final seat.  Rodarte ended up on the short end of that recount but eventually was successful in winning a seat on the Norwalk City Council in 2011.

  • jim smith says:

    Congrats to Kelley and Mendez..This community is known for close votes a few years ago an ABC school board candidate lost by 1 vote after the re count it remained 1 vote..Mr. Aranda accept what it is and not what you would like it to be. also with all the questions of truth what is the relationship between Dr. Salazar and Mr. Aranda we have heard every thing life partner, to fiancees who are exopecting a child to friend…Just curious.