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A glitch in a Kings County voting machine changed an Assembly primary.

Until certified results came out today (June 26), Justin Mendes led incumbent Rudy Salas Jr. in the District 32 race covering Kings and Kern counties.

After election night, Mendes, a Republican Hanford city councilman, led Democrat Salas 52%-48%. The numbers held as more votes came in — until the final Kings County results.

“We’ve been in the process of trying to replace those machines. I’m hoping before the next election we might be able to do that.” — Kings County Assessor/Clerk-Recorder Kristine Lee

Now Salas leads by less than one percentage point, or 252 votes.

Mendes and Salas were the only two candidates, so in California’s top-two system both advance to the November general election.

Voting Machine Error

According to Kings County Assessor/Clerk-Recorder Kristine Lee, a voting machine double-counted one run of the ballots through the machine. A run can include multiple precincts. It added the results of the run onto the next run counted. When reviewing results before certifying, Lee noticed that the vote count for one precinct was too high.

“One precinct had way too many votes. It didn’t make sense. So, we re-ran those votes,” Lee said.

The machines, made by Dominion Voting Systems, have been in place since 2000. County officials purchased at least one of the two machines used.

“We’ve been in the process of trying to replace those machines,” Lee said. “I’m hoping before the next election we might be able to do that.”

Lee said this problem has never happened before, but they’ve had other glitches. She is unsure of why the machine failed in this instance.

“The prior results were preliminary, but the results that were updated on the website today are accurate and will be the certified results for Kings County.  This is an example as to why testing subsequent to the elections is so very important,” Lee said.

According to Rob Pyers of the California Target Book, the revision affected a total of 1,854 votes — 1,230 of those for Mendes.

Mendes Not Worried

Mendes said that he isn’t worried about the reversal. He noted that Salas has many advantages like a 22% Democratic voter registration, campaign spending and incumbency.

“The best he can do is 250? I bet he is nervous headed into November,” Mendes said.

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