Former Santa Barbara County supervisor and attorney Mike Stoker will soon leave Santa Barbara to spend a week on the East Coast to do vote monitoring as part of the legal team in President Donald Trump’s campaign.
Mr. Stoker told the News-Press he was “honored” and “humbled” when the campaign called him up to request his services.
Mr. Stoker has worked as one of President Trump’s appointees as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Pacific Southwest Region and as the U.S. representative of the Western Interstate Nuclear Energy Board.
He was appointed to the former position in 2016, was dismissed from the position in 2017 citing “clashes” with the agency’s leadership and was appointed to the latter organization in March.
As part of the vote-monitoring team, Mr. Stoker will work to make sure that only ballots that meet the requirements of a state’s election rules are counted on Nov. 3.
“What our job is, is to make sure the rules and the process of that particular state are followed and that only ballots are counted consistent with the rules of that particular state,” he said.
Different states have different requirements for ballots, and the leadup to the general election has seen states adopt new rules for ballots. For instance, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that ballots cannot be rejected if the signatures on them don’t match those on their corresponding voter registration forms.
Because getting an accurate vote count can be complicated if precincts open up ballots that shouldn’t be, Mr. Stoker stressed that it is crucial for ballots that meet a state’s list of requirements to be clearly separated from ones that don’t. He said questionable ballots should be sequestered until after Election Day, at which time it can be determined whether a particular ballot should be counted.
“The question is going to be, are there sequestered ballots that can change that vote result? No candidate is going to announce victory or accept defeat until those ballots that have been sequestered have been counted,” Mr. Stoker said.
He suspects that getting a final vote count in closely fought battleground states might take as long as several days or weeks.
When Mr. Stoker meets up with the president’s re-election campaign on Saturday, its lead attorney will allocate attorneys to work in different states. Though environmental land use and agricultural law was Mr. Stoker’s “bread and butter” as an attorney, the former member of the county Board of Supervisors said he has extensive election law experience from overseeing the state Elections Division while serving as California’s deputy secretary of state from 2000 to 2002.
When asked if monitoring ballots in another state with different — and in certain cases, recently changed — rules is a challenge, Mr. Stoker said it’s just a simple matter of getting acquainted with a different list of requirements.
“It’s not any more difficult; it’s just that the checklist changes,” he said.
There could possibly be some overlap in the re-election campaign’s legal team should the general election result in a recount similar to the 2000 presidential race between President George W. Bush and former Vice President Al Gore. But Mr. Stoker said the recount law is entirely separate from what he and his colleagues will be doing over the coming week.