Local Election Results Reflect National Mood

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IMPERIAL COUNTY — Tuesday’s local election results mirrored the same spirit as national, with voters rejecting incumbents and political experience for new faces with business backgrounds.

Calexico City Council had 14 candidates vying for three seats, two held by incumbents who unsuccessfully defended their jobs. Imperial City Council lost a long-time incumbent, and a longtime El Centro City Council woman lost her bid for the county Board of Supervisors.

In Calexico, after years of conflict, contention, and rumors of missing funds, Lewis Pacheco, Jesus Escobar and Bill Hodge replaced incumbents Luis Castro and Joong Kim. Although Pacheco and Hodge served previous stints with the Calexico council, voters apparently preferred them to the current members.

Pacheco ran on a fiscal responsibility ticket promising a balanced budget, annual audits and a strong public safety message. Jesus Escobar, a U.S. customs broker, brings a Masters in Public Administration and knowledge of finances from his past job as treasurer for the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corporation. The voters of Calexico appeared to be looking for more fiscal accountability.

Imperial also had a shake-up as long-time council member Mark Gran lost his bid for re-election and Robert Amparano and Darrell Pechel, both newcomers, will take seats on the council.

Political newcomer Luis Plancarte beat out El Centro councilwoman Cheryl Viegas-Walker for the seat on Imperial County’s Board of Supervisors, District 2. Viegas-Walker has spent time and energy as a political leader in El Centro and on various state and local boards, whereas Plancarte has worked in the private sector and with local service and youth organizations. This is Plancarte’s first elected office.

Perhaps the sole race that did not follow the pattern was the Imperial Irrigation District race between Erik Ortega and Daniel Romero. Ortega, the winner, moves from an elected position on the Calexico School Board where he resided as president.

However, some races remain close and without declared winners, as Imperial County is the only County that has not turned in their official ballot reports to the State of California.

According to election officials, it typically takes weeks for counties to process and count all of the ballots. County election officials have approximately one month (28 days for presidential electons and 30 days for all other contests) to complete extensive tallying, auditing, and certification work, known as the “official canvass.”

Most notably, voting by mail has increased significantly in recent years, and many vote-by-mail ballots arrive on, or up to three days after, Election Day. In processing vote-by-mail ballots, election officials must confirm each voter’s registration status, verify each voter’s signature on the vote-by-mail envelope, and ensure each person did not vote elsewhere in the same election before the ballot can be counted.

Other ballots that are processed after Election Day include provisional ballots, and ballots that are damaged or cannot be machine-read must be remade by elections officials.

State law requires county elections officials to report their final results to the Secretary of State for presidential elections by December 6, 2016, and for all other contests by December 9, 2016. The Secretary of State will certify the results for presidential electors to the Governor by December 10, 2016, and will certify the results of all state contests by December 16, 2016.

Debra Porter, Imperial Valley Registrar of Voters, was unavailable for contact prior to publication, however, a clerk in her office said Monday evening an updated report with vote counts will be posted.