John D’Amico, Abbe Land and John Heilman Clinch Council Seats With Final Vote Count

D’Amico picks up an additional 405 votes in Monday's final ballot count, placing first in the election.

Last week’s election results are now official. First-time city council candidate won big, coming in first place in the vote count. D’Amico joins incumbents and for a four-year term on the council.

With some 757 provisional and absentee ballots counted on Monday afternoon added to the total from election night, D’Amico picked up an additional 405 votes, enough to catapult him into a first place finish.

D’Amico finished the race with an overall total of 2,876 votes. Not far behind, Land landed in second place with 2,834 votes and Heilman came in third place with 2,626 votes. Since three council seats were up for election, those three candidates are the city’s new councilmembers. D’Amico, Land and Heilman will be sworn into office at the March 21 city council meeting.

Former city council member lost his bid to rejoin the 5-member council, coming in fourth place with 2,320 votes, some 306 votes behind Heilman. Martin who previously served on the council from 1994-2003, lost in 2003 by 343 votes, in 2007 by 333 votes.

Incumbent appointee finished in fifth place with 2,124 votes, 196 votes behind Martin. Horvath, who was appointed to the council in May 2009 following the death of longtime councilmember Sal Guariello, had never faced the voters before.

Horvath’s appointment became a major campaign issue as challengers repeatedly called her appointment “undemocratic,” saying a special election should have been held to fill the vacant seat. Other challengers said the then-25-year-old Horvath, who had only moved into the city 18 months earlier, lacked experience given the large number of older, more qualified candidates who had applied for the appointment.

First-time council candidate came in sixth place with an impressive total of 1,447 votes while , another first-time council candidate, finished in seventh place with 1,057 votes.

landed in eighth place with 559 votes and was ninth with 550 votes. Martin Topp, whose name appeared on the ballot even though he withdrew from the race for personal reasons, earned 158 votes.

The number of provisional and absentee ballots that were counted on Monday caused a mini-controversy due to a discrepancy in the number of ballots reported awaiting counting.

On election night, Assistant City Clerk Corey Schaffer announced there were 930 provisional/absentee ballots still to be counted, but that number was changed the next day to “.”

City Clerk Tom West initially called it “,” but was at a loss for an exact explanation for the discrepancy. However, by Monday, West and his staff had figured out what happened – a box of 130 provisional ballots got counted twice on election night.

Of those 800 provisional/absentee ballots, 757 were ultimately counted. Once signatures were verified by the Los Angeles County Registrar, 43 of the ballots were thrown out because the people were not registered to vote, had already voted elsewhere or failed to sign their ballots.

While some people wrote in votes for Mickey Mouse and Brittany Spears, as well as local activist Lauren Meister, none of those votes were included in the official tally since no one qualified to be a write-in candidate. West explained that even write-in candidates must qualify by collecting 20 signatures on their write-in petition beforehand.

In total, 6,103 votes were cast in this election, 25 percent of the city’s 24,496 registered voters. That’s up significantly from 2007, the last time Land and Heilman were on the ballot, when turn out was 22 percent. In 2009, when councilmembers Jeffrey Prang and John Duran were reelected to their seats, the turnout was 18 percent.

Also on Monday, as required by state law, a hand count of one of the city’s 11 precincts was conducted. The district chosen at random was precinct 36, which covers the area south of Santa Monica Boulevard between Vista and Hayworth.

Two extra ballots were found in this hand count, apparently stuck to other ballots. Both ballots were for the Land-Heilman-Horvath slate.

Aside from adding two votes each for those candidates, the hand count total matched the machine count total precisely. Counting the 470 ballots in precinct 36 took four city-hall employees three hours.

If any candidate or resident wants to have the votes recounted, they have until Saturday, five calendar days after the provisional ballots were counted, to file their papers, per the California elections code, sections 15,620-15,634

If a recount is demanded, it must begin within seven business days of filing the papers. The person filing the request is responsible for covering the costs, putting down a deposit at the beginning of each day of the recount.

West was unsure of the exact cost, but said they would have to pay his salary and Schaffer’s salary for the day(s) of the recount, as well as the cost of renting the vote counting machine.

Dan Pabich, a representative of the Anaheim-based election-consulting firm Martin & Chapman, which provided the counting machines on election night, as well as for Monday afternoon’s provisional count, said it costs approximately $3,000 to rent the machine.

If a hand count of the ballots is requested, four registered West Hollywood voters would have to volunteer and would be paid $85 per person per day for their services.

According to figures Weho Patch calculated using the state controller’s report of West Hollywood City Hall salaries, between West and Schaffer’s daily salaries and the four vote counters, a manual count would cost approximately $1,300 per day.

Given that the state-required hand count of one precinct on Monday morning took three hours, it would take roughly 33 hours to count all 11 precincts in the city. Thus the hand recount would likely take four days. 

The election results are currently scheduled to be certified at the March 21 City Council meeting. West said state law requires him to keep the ballots for six months, after which they can be destroyed. 

Paul March 15, 2011 at 05:48 PM
That's the way the cookie crumbles. Since when is the most qualified candidate elected? It's a hollow victory but a victory is a victory. John D. or someone like him would have been a council member 2 years ago had a special election been held as it should have been when long time council member Sal Guariello sadly passed away. Lindsey Horvath should have never been appointed and hopefully appointing someone like her will never happen again. Things have not been the same since Paul Koretz was a council member. Lets hope now with John D. things will be more like it once was back then.
Edd Holman March 15, 2011 at 07:58 PM


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