Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Challenge kicks off Perez-requested recount in state Controller race

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A  recount of ballots requested by John Perez, the third-place finisher in the state Controller's primary race, began Friday in Kern and Imperial counties.

Based on the first day's counting in the Kern County seat of Bakersfield, the recount could move at a glacial pace, frequently stalled by questions and challenges from lawyers and observers working on behalf of former Assembly Speaker Perez and his opponent Betty Yee.

She placed second in the controller's primary by 481 votes and if she retains that position after the recount, she would face Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, a Republican, in the November general election.

Related: 8 reasons to care about the recount in the state controller's race

Before the first full Kern County precinct was counted,  Yee's lawyer challenged  a Perez vote.

"I'm challenging the prior ballot based on that mark," said attorney Richard Rios. He was challenging a ballot that had been cast by electronic voting machine and recorded on a roll of paper tape. It wasn't clear from the marking if the voter had cast a ballot or meant to cancel the vote.

Chief Deputy Registrar Karen Rhea replied, "We'll make note that your challenge is based on your belief that that applies to the prior ballot."

Related: Controller recount points out holes in election laws

The registrar decides which challenged votes are ultimately counted.

Perez asked for 15 California counties to be counted, starting with Kern and Imperial counties. For the results of a recount to alter the statewide total of votes, an entire county's votes must be tallied. As the person asking for — and paying the costs of — the recount, Perez can decide whether to count the votes by hand or by machine.

His campaign consultant, Douglas Herman, has estimated a full hand recount of all the states' votes would cost as much as $3 million.

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