Thursday, June 7, 2018

Elections Office: At Least 1,201 Ballots to be Counted in Fifth District Race

Posted By on Thu, Jun 7, 2018 at 11:17 AM

click to enlarge Ryan Sundberg (left) and Steve Madrone - SUBMITTED
  • submitted
  • Ryan Sundberg (left) and Steve Madrone
There are at least 1,201 ballots yet to be counted in the neck-and-neck battle for a seat on the board of supervisors representing Humboldt County’s Fifth District, and possibly many more, according to Registrar of Voters Kelly Sanders.

Election night ended with challenger Steve Madrone holding a razor-thin, 33-vote lead over two-term incumbent Ryan Sundberg, with 4,796 votes counted in the race.

This morning, Sanders provided the Journal with a breakdown of outstanding ballots in the race. She says the elections office currently has 1,201 Fifth District vote-by-mail ballots that arrived between Monday and yesterday. Additionally, she says 717 vote-by-mail ballots were turned in to polling locations in the Fifth District on Tuesday, though the office has yet to verify whether all of those are Fifth District ballots (voters can drop these ballots at any polling location on Election Day). Additionally, she says 315 provision ballots were cast at Fifth District polling locations on Election Day, though the elections office has yet to vet them to determine how many are valid.

So when it comes to ballots in hand, the elections office has at least 1,201 and as many as 2,233 Fifth District votes that have yet to be counted. But because state election law provides that vote-by-mail ballots only need to be postmarked by the close of Election Day, more ballots are likely to trickle in and those numbers are likely to rise.

Sanders says the elections office’s goal is to have all this sorted and issue a post-election report that includes all the outstanding ballots within the next two weeks. (Four years ago, it took the office three weeks to issue the post-election tally.)

We did an analysis of Fifth District results yesterday that can be found here, looking at past trends in the district’s supervisorial races involving Sundberg and how they apply to the current race.

But the new numbers give us the chance to get a bit more specific in looking at what Sundberg needs to happen to come out on top in this race, which he currently trails behind his challenger by just 0.69 percent of the vote.

First, let’s just look at the 1,201 vote-by-mail ballots we know are out there. If Sundberg takes 618 of them — 51.46 percent — that would eclipse the 33-vote deficit and put him in the lead by two votes. Sundberg took 52.31 percent of the vote-by-mail ballots the elections office received prior to Monday, but history has shown us that across all local races those generally trend more conservative than the ones that come in on or after Election Day and Sundberg’s history in the Fifth District shows his numbers have tapered off after Election Day in the last two June primary elections.

If we assume that all those 2,233 ballots the elections office currently has in hand from the Fifth District — those vote-by-mail ballots plus the provisionals and vote-by-mail ballots turned into Fifth District polling locations — are valid and include votes in the race, Sundberg would need 1,134 of them, or 50.78 percent, to pull ahead.

But as said before, those are just the numbers we have. They will change as the elections office deems some provisions not to be valid, finds some Fifth District voters dropped off their vote-by-mail ballots at polling locations outside the district and that some of those dropped off in the Fifth actually belong to voters from other districts, as inevitably will happen, and as ballots continue to trickle in through the mail.

So we’ll all have to sit tight, as we’re unlikely to get a clearer picture of where the race will land until the week of June 18, at the earliest.
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Thadeus Greenson

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Thadeus Greenson is the news editor of the North Coast Journal.

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