District Attorney Public Integrity Unit Statement Regarding Provisional Ballot Inquiry
District Attorney Public Integrity Unit Statement Regarding Provisional Ballot Inquiry

Public Integrity Unit Reports on Provisional Ballot Inquiry

Author: District Attorney Public Integrity Unit
Date: 12/6/2022 5:37:30 PM

The District Attorney's Public Integrity Unit conducted an inquiry into concerns about the County Clerk-Recorder's reported number of provisional ballots. In response, Clerk-Recorder Elaina Cano promptly provided an explanation.

On Tuesday, November 29, 2022, the District Attorney’s Office received a written referral from a federal law enforcement agency with information alleging potential election crimes occurring during the counting of ballots in San Luis Obispo County.

The referral raised questions about an unexplained increase of more than 300 provisional ballots that were announced when the Clerk-Recorder updated the public after counting ballots on November 23, 2022. The referral alleged that election observers were ‘sent home’ and it was while no observers were present that the additional 300 or more provisional ballots were ‘found.’

After confirming that the Clerk-Recorder’s Office did indeed publish on its website on November 23, 2022, a higher total of provisional ballots that was approximately 327 more than previously reported, the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit opened an inquiry to determine the reason for the unexplained increase by more than 300 provisional ballots.

In response to the Public Integrity Unit’s inquiry, San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder Elaina Cano promptly provided a response that explained the apparent discrepancy between the two reported totals of provisional ballots as an error when using a spreadsheet to total the ballots.

“The provisional ballot envelopes received by all county precincts on election night were counted, reported and their numbers were included on an excel spreadsheet utilized by my office to report the estimated figures to the SOS [Secretary of State]. However, at the time of the first report to the SOS, the excel spreadsheet did not generate "totals" for the provisional ballots for precinct numbers 101-123 and 201-220, respectively, which cumulatively equaled 327 provisional ballots. Consequently, when my office reported the estimate of total unprocessed provisional ballots to the SOS on the second day after the election, the provisional ballots for the referenced precincts were not included in that estimate. When the results of the election were updated on November 23, 2022, the provisional ballot totals for precincts 101-123 and 201-220 were captured and included in the "estimated" numbers provided to the SOS on that same day.”

-Elaina Caino, County Clerk-Recorder, December 2, 2022

Public confidence in the integrity of our elections and the vote counting process is essential to the functioning of our federal, state, and local government. Therefore, full transparency about the facts and process when questions are raised is essential to ensure the public trust in our local elections. The District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit has found no evidence that would contradict the explanation of a spreadsheet calculation error and therefore releases these facts to increase transparency and trust in the ongoing ballot counting by our county elections staff.

The District Attorney’s Office Public Integrity Unit’s primary goal is to increase the public's level of trust and confidence in local government and elected and appointed officials through investigative oversight and enforcement when evidence is sufficient for prosecution.

Please contact Assistant District Attorney Eric J. Dobroth at 805.781.5819 with any questions.

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Information about our Public Integrity Unit can be found here.