SLO County’s Looney Tunes election recount is over. The MAGA crowd still isn’t satisfied

Laura Dickinson/
·4 min read

After an expensive ballot recount in San Luis Obispo County — possibly the only June primary recount conducted in all of California — the final numbers are in, and guess what?

They’re unchanged. Completely. Not a single vote was miscounted in the original tally.

The hand count of more than 20,000 ballots cast in the District 4 Board of Supervisors election — a race the Republican incumbent lost by 639 votes — was exactly the same as the machine count: 10,769 votes for Arroyo Grande City Councilman Jimmy Paulding, a young, liberal-leaning attorney, and 10,130 for two-term incumbent Lynn Compton, who makes up one-third of a conservative troika often at odds with the county’s more moderate base.

The recount should renew confidence in the integrity of our elections — including the Dominion voting machines that have been so unfairly and falsely maligned by election deniers.

But instead of complimenting the county elections staff on a job well done, conservatives who instigated this long-shot recount are finding more to complain about, from the demeanor of election employees to the high cost of the vote counting.

Originally estimated at over $100,000, the final bill is still being calculated with more than $53,000 paid so far. The woman who requested the recount, Paso Robles conservative Darcia Stebbens, is responsible for paying it, though others have been chipping in.

Far from sounding disappointed by the outcome of the recount — let alone acknowledging that it makes them look ridiculous — stalwart conservatives are treating this as just one step in a long war.

“Please do not be dismayed if you hear the machine counts were ‘spot on’ with the hand count,” Stebbens said in an email sent to SLO County GOP members.

Let’s pause a minute to let that sink in.

Conservatives should not be “dismayed” that our elections have been proven sound.

Would not true defenders of democracy approach this from the opposite tack? Should they not be happy to assure their followers that the process was evaluated and found to be secure? That’s been their supposedly honorable mission all along, right?

Apparently not, because as Stebbens continued, “Counting is only a small part of what these machines do to affect our county’s elections.”

What else do the machines do?

Rip up ballots they don’t like?

Use a special ink eraser to change votes?

Cross out the names of liberal candidates and write in Donald Duck?

On a talk radio show, Stebbens said she and other like-minded citizens wanted to see the actual ballots and other “relevant materials” to check for “statistical anomalies.”

“And have you seen any statistical anomalies?” KPRL talk radio host Dick Mason asked her.

“Yes, quite a few,” she responded, conveniently without specifying the nature of the so-called anomalies.

Instead, she used an analogy. She compared ballots to $1,000 in bills sitting in a cash drawer. The count may turn out the same again and again and again, but $300 of that $1,000 could be “Monopoly money.”

Yes, this is Looney Tunes, and it’s typical of the attacks the MAGA crowd uses.

Throw out a stream of wild conspiracy theories in the hopes of attracting gullible malcontents who cannot bring themselves to admit their candidate — whether it’s a Donald Trump or a SLO County supervisor — lost the election.

And here’s the frightening part: They’re practically everywhere, and they still aren’t being convinced otherwise.

Across the country, they are making life miserable for local elections officials; they’re planning to stake out drop boxes in the upcoming election, to try to catch “mules” depositing illegally harvested ballots; and they’re demanding changes to election law.

Among other “reforms,” they want to stop sending mail-in ballots to every voter and they want to get rid of voting machines, which they continue to regard as contraptions of some evil empire.

During public comment at a recent San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors meeting, one speaker stepped to the microphone and asked, “Has anybody been inside the machines?”

He suggested opening one up and looking inside to make sure everything is right.

Really? How many of us would even know what we were seeing?

Look, machines are not the enemy here.

The real threat to democracy is posed by disgruntled deniers and conspiracy theorists who, without a shred of proof, continue to undermine our system of free and fair elections.

They may have lost a round in San Luis Obispo County, but they aren’t giving up.

Neither can we.