Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Elections -- Who's Still Alive?

Posted By on Wed, Nov 3, 2010 at 1:16 PM

We're still waiting to get through to the Elections Office, but several campaigns are reporting that there are 10,000 late absentee and provisional ballots left to be counted. This roughly jibes with what we've seen in the past. In the June primary, when turnout was much lower, there were 6,556 votes counted after the polls closed.

(UPDATE: Actually 12,960 ballots left, according to Carolyn Crnich. Adjust the figures below accordingly.)

So with a big pot of votes out there waiting to be counted, do any of last night's second-place finishers still have a chance?

My initial read of the numbers says that if anyone does, it's Patrick Cleary. Let's suppose, using rough division, that around 20 percent of the remaining ballots are from the Fifth District. (Such was the case in the primary.) That's 2,000 ballots. Cleary ended election night 93 votes behind Ryan Sundberg. To take over the lead, Cleary would need 1,047 of those hypothetical 2,000 ballots to go his way -- a little over 52.2 percent.

Is this out of the realm of possibility? No. As has been previously noted and reconfirmed again and again in Humboldt County election history, these late absentee ballots don't behave like your regular absentee ballots, which tend to skew conservative. If anything, the late absentees tend to skew left -- good news for Cleary. On the other hand, last night Sundberg barely led Cleary both in the absentee/vote-by-mail and the precinct counts. Cleary started the night looking for a boost from precinct voters; that didn't materialize.

Supporters of Allison Jackson, who led incumbent District Attorney Paul Gallegos throughout the night until the very last moment, are holding out hope. Jackson ended 1,054 votes behind, and so would need over 55.3 percent of the uncounted votes to win. Possible? Sure. Likely? I don't think so. Jackson supporters are counting on those ballots to break like the first absentee results, in which Jackson crushed Gallegos convincingly. But such is not usually the case -- the late absentees usually look a lot more like precinct votes, which Gallegos dominated all night long.

In Eureka, supporters of Ron Kuhnel might be thinking that their candidate has a shot, being only 171 votes behind Mike Newman. Unlikely. Let's say that there are about 1,600 city of Eureka votes out there. (The city accounted for about 16 percent of the vote last night.) The three-way race here makes the math head-splittingly hard, but Kuhnel would have to rack up about 10 percentage points over Newman in these final ballots to make up the difference -- i.e., Kuhnel, 48; Newman, 38; Manns, 14. Tough sell.

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Hank Sims

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