Election Day has come and gone, but whether it will be incumbent Rep. Jeff Denham or challenger Josh Harder representing California’s 10th Congressional District still remains to be seen and could take weeks to decide with thousands of votes still left uncounted.
Immediately following Tuesday’s election, just under 1,300 votes separated Denham and Harder as the Stanislaus County elections office worked on processing 80,000 additional ballots — 67,000 vote by mail ballots and 13,000 provisional, conditional and miscellaneous ballots. Legally, the elections office has until Dec. 6 to count all of the votes, but a new results update released by the County at 5 p.m. on Friday showed that an additional 64,500 ballots had been counted between Stanislaus County and San Joaquin County, which both make up District 10.
Prior to Friday’s update, Harder had trailed Denham, with the incumbent Congressman receiving 50.6 percent of the votes in District 10. Harder at the time had received 49.4 percent of the vote.
As of Friday evening, Harder had pulled ahead of Denham in Stanislaus County, receiving 50.99 percent of the vote, or 72,101 votes, while Denham fell behind with 49.01 percent of the vote, or 69,313 votes. In San Joaquin County, Harder received 17,662 votes and Denham received 17,088 according to the county’s own 5 p.m. update on Friday.
Stanislaus County Registrar of Voters Lee Lundrigan said on Tuesday night that an “amazing amount” of voters throughout the county requested provisional ballots. Many polling places were reported to have run out of the pink envelopes that provisional ballots are placed in, causing confusion and long lines for those trying to cast their vote.
The Harder Campaign in a statement on Wednesday said that they’ve “known from the beginning this wasn’t going to be resolved on election night.”
“We are encouraged by the results so far and we will be watching the results closely in the days to come,” the statement continued.
On Friday, Harder said the updated vote tally was “extremely encouraging,” as it showed him ahead of Denham by over 3,300 votes.
“We will continue to work each day to ensure every vote counts in this election,” Harder said. “I want to thank the thousands of local volunteers who knocked on doors and made phone calls for our campaign. Your work has made the difference. We look forward to the next update in the vote count and if the trend continues, I will work every single day in Congress to put the Central Valley first.”
The high-profile race was targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee early on as part of their campaign to flip Republican-controlled districts over to Democrats — something that, with or without a victory from Harder, the Democrats were able to achieve Tuesday night. This year’s midterms marked the fourth straight election that Denham has had to defend his incumbency against the “blue wave.”
In a phone call on Wednesday, Denham’s campaign manager Joshua Whitfield said that with so many vote by mail ballots left to be counted, the campaign was feeling optimistic. Denham fared better than Harder with already-tallied vote by mail return ballots by one and a half points, Whitfield said, and the Congressman was more popular with voters at the polls in both Stanislaus and San Joaquin Counties by a small margin up until Friday’s updated count.
According to Stanislaus County’s numbers, there should be about 4,000 vote by mail ballots and the leftover 11,000 provisional ballots that still need processing. The County has not yet announced when another update will be released.
According to research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Political Science, “overtime” ballots, or those provisionals counted after the polls are closed, typically tilt in favor of Democrats. Whitfield on Wednesday believed Denham’s lead over Harder at the time would grow with vote by mail ballots that had yet to be counted, making the remaining 11,000 provisional ballots obsolete. On Friday, that didn’t turn out to be the case.
In its most recent update, the Stanislaus County elections office reported having tallied 143,627 ballots. There were 247,833 residents eligible to vote in the election, meaning voter turnout was 57.95 percent — up nearly 15 percent from the county’s last midterm election in 2014.
For updates on vote totals, visit https://vote.sos.ca.gov/returns/us-rep/district/10.