That was the margin separating Republican Andrew Do and Democrat Lou Correa late Tuesday night in the race to represent over 600,000 people living in central Orange County on the Board of Supervisors.
Do, a former chief of staff to state Sen. Janet Nguyen, who took over for Correa when he termed out last year, had 16,202 votes. Correa, who was ahead for most of Tuesday night’s tallies, finished with 16,200.
There are still about 6,100 votes – mainly Election Day provisionals and late mail-in ballots – that remain to be counted in the next few days.
In the background is an ongoing District Attorney investigation that was triggered Tuesday after DA investigators and Santa Ana police arrived on scene at a polling station in the city to address concerns that a pollworker was trying to coerce a voter.
“There is an investigation,” confirmed OC Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley, “but I can’t discuss it.”
Kelley said that Registrar officials would begin counting about 1,264 provisional ballots – which are open to challenge from both campaigns – Thursday morning. Results from about 4,700 mail-in ballots should be tabulated by then.
There’s also another twist to this election, given that a recent law – passed by Correa as a state Senator last year – allows mail-in ballots sent on Election Day to be counted. That deadline for the Registrar to receive them comes on Friday.
“Two votes. It’s a perfect example of when I tell constituents their vote counts. Look at it, two votes separate us,” Correa said early Wednesday morning. “Does your vote count? Absolutely.”
At the Azteca Mexican Restaurant in Garden Grove, Do reflected on his long journey toward Tuesday’s night’s returns and what it meant with his supporters.
“When you, at 12 years old, have to condense yourself into a bag, and ask yourself what is it that you want to bring with you that represent you…you learn quickly a lesson about society, law and order, and our responsibility to each other as citizens,” Do said. “I learned that lesson even more going through the refugee camps. I learned how fragile our whole concept of society is, of structure, of civic duties. It’s with those values in mind that I made my life in the U.S. – to always give back and make the system a little bit better.”
Do told his crowd – chock-full of Republican officials like former Fifth District Chief of Staff Brian Probolsky and Fourth District Chief of Staff Dennis Bilodeau – that “we are in a good position” as the final vote counts begin.
Do also thanked his political mentor, Nguyen, who told supporters she was no stranger to close races.
“If you remember 2007, we were here,” Nguyen said, gesturing around the restaurant, where she has traditionally hosted her election night celebrations. “I didn’t win the first numbers either. But at the end of the night, I won 52 votes.”
At a celebration hosted by the Orange County Employees Association, Correa thanked his labor supporters, acknowledging their strong turnout and support.
OCEA Assistant General Manager Jennifer Muir credited his work ethic.
“Senator Correa has done the work. He’s been there in the community,” Muir said.
“You work hard in any community, you show what you are about…and it pays off,” Correa said.
Correa said he’s “cautiously optimistic” going into the next few days.
Registrar officials are expected to continue counting late mail-in ballots Wednesday.
Then, on Thursday morning, Kelley said he expects to count provisional ballots.
During that process, representatives of both campaigns will watch Registrar officials go over the ballots. It’s also where things could get hot and lawyers could ultimately get involved, especially given Tuesday night’s difference of two votes out of 41,000.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the title of Orange County Employees Association Assistant General Manager Jennifer Muir.