11:25 PM PST on Wednesday, November 10, 2010

By DUANE W. GANG
The Press-Enterprise

A day after ousting the registrar of voters, Riverside County officials said Wednesday that they will do everything they can to ensure the remaining votes are counted accurately.

The county still must tally about 28,800 provisional ballots and certify the Nov. 2 results by Nov. 30.

“Though there is a vacancy in the registrar position, the registrar’s staff is still in place and will continue to process ballots,” spokesman Ray Smith said by e-mail.

Amid fierce criticism over the slow posting of election results, County Executive Officer Bill Luna fired Registrar of Voters Barbara Dunmore on Tuesday afternoon.

Dunmore had been criticized over similar issues in the June 8 primary.

On Wednesday, Smith said Assistant Executive Officer Jay Orr is overseeing the registrar’s functions.

The county’s elections official — normally the registrar — is the person required by state law to certify the results.

Certification issue

The county’s lawyers are currently determining whether Luna or the Board of Supervisors needs to “formally designate a county elections official” to allow certification, Smith said.

The timing of Dunmore’s dismissal — before all the votes are counted and before certification — has at least two political campaigns watching Riverside County.

Republican Steve Cooley and Democrat Kamala Harris are in a close battle for state attorney general. As of Wednesday morning, Cooley led by 9,555 votes statewide.

“The timing is very unusual,” Cooley consultant Kevin Spillane said by e-mail. “Our primary concern is the integrity of the ballot process.”

Harris consultant Brian Brokaw said the campaign has 1,300 volunteers around the state observing the vote count, including in Riverside County.

The volunteers are “there to make sure that every last ballot is counted and is counted fairly,” he said.

Others, though, said the registrar’s current staff should be up to the task of finishing the vote count.

“The Riverside elections office is staffed by many professionals who understand California elections law,” said Shannon Velayas, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

accuracy, then speed

Gail Pellerin, president of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials, said Wednesday that accuracy is always more important than speed when it comes to vote counting.

She said her “heart ached” when she read of Dunmore’s firing. No election is ever perfect, said Pellerin, the county clerk and elections chief in Santa Cruz County.

Tom Courbat, founder of the election watchdog Save R Vote, said Wednesday that he has been concerned about accuracy in Riverside County’s vote for five years. He continues to have concerns in light of Dunmore’s departure. But Courbat said the firing is not undeserved.

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