Brian Charles, Staff Writer
Created: 11/17/2010 08:24:29 PM PST

While 8 million Californians voted in the state’s attorney general’s race, about 300 Los Angeles County election workers will decide the fate of a race “too close to call.”

That’s if the candidates, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley and San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, don’t end up settling the election in court.

Harris holds a slight edge over Cooley statewide and a double-digit lead in Los Angeles County.

In recent days, each side has asserted the other is trying to unfairly pressure county officials counting ballots.

“This is sniping as usual that only comes around when the votes are close enough that the race could be affected by the qualification or disqualification of ballots,” said Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause and a member of the Election Protection watchdog network.

The Los Angeles County Clerk-Registrar Recorder’s Office election workers charged with tallying the votes are holed up in five county office rooms that resemble Las Vegas casino-style count rooms. Each worker combs over the ballot with the same scrutiny a casino employee would inspect a $20 bill.

But unlike Las Vegas, there are campaign volunteers in the count rooms to make sure their candidate’s ballots don’t get skimmed off the top.

The fight over Los Angeles County votes factors heavily in the race, said Brian Brokaw, a spokesman for the Harris campaign.

The count should be finished by next Wednesday, county officials said. From there it must be certified by the Secretary of State’s Office, which will happen in early December.

At issue are provisional ballots.

The ballots, which are cast by voters who might not be registered to vote or have inaccuracies in their registration, are kept separate from absentee and traditional ballots.

Each provisional ballot has voter information written on a sleeve surrounding the ticket. Unlike traditional ballots, provisional are hand-counted. Roughly 40,000 such ballots remain uncounted in Los Angeles County.

County workers spend much of the day verifying signatures address and voter registration.

Cooley observers have cried foul over the election officials’ practice of calling voters to correct inaccuracies in their registration and then counting those votes.

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