Los Banos schools election to stand

By Thaddeus Miller / tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comDecember 27, 2012 

The deadline to contest the November election has passed, and the faces on the Los Banos Unified School board of trustees will likely not change.

The Merced County Registrar of Voters certified the election on Nov. 26; former member Colleen Menefee has decided not to contest.

"Being fully aware that the election results for Area 4 do not clearly represent the desire of all voters in Area 4, I have decided for personal reasons not to pursue a new election," Menefee said, in a news release.

Holding back tears, Menefee said she remains supportive of the school district. "I just think I need to move on," she said.

Former member Jack Vasquez was not available for comment Thursday, as he was in surgery. A man answering the door to Vasquez's Los Banos home identified himself as Vasquez's nephew and said his uncle would not be hiring a lawyer.

In two of three Los Banos Unified School District board of trustee seats, candidates were separated by dozens of votes in precincts with hundreds of voting errors.

Attorney Dominic Falasco finished in front of incumbent Colleen Menefee by 25 votes (670 to 645) in District 4, while retiree Carole Duffy beat incumbent Jack Vasquez by 69 votes (695 to 626) in District 6.

In District 2, retired teacher Tommy Jones beat manufacturing engineer Thomas Higby, 727 votes to 354.

Registrar Kent Christensen confirmed some voters were given the wrong ballots at polling places. His office contacted the poll workers to make sure voters were getting the correct ballots.

Christensen said District 4, which includes seven precincts, reported 103 people voted who should not have voted, while 19 who should have were not given ballots. For District 6, which also covers seven precincts, 51 people voted who should not have while 51 were not allowed.

Christensen blamed human error, and said changes to districting likely added to the confusion. Trustees were elected by districts for the first time, and the new census count changed a number of districts, he said.

Christensen said in November the elections would stand if not contested. He wasn't available for comment Thursday.

The candidates had 30 days from when the election was certified to contest, or by Dec. 26. Candidates may contest an election, according to state election code, if "the precinct board in conducting the election or in canvassing the returns, made errors sufficient to change the result of the election ... ."

In bringing a case, the candidate would have to have demonstrable numbers.

Menefee, for example, would have to demonstrate error in at least 26 votes, one more than the difference in her race, that would sway the result in her favor.

Christensen estimated a do-over election could cost $4 per registered voter.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos

enterprise.com.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos enterprise.com.

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