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Election Update on Uncounted Ballots

A run-off for a congressional seat and a school tax initiative are still open questions a week after election day.

When the final election results were released from the primary balloting last week, it was clear there remained a couple races that were very tight.

One of them is the Northern California-wide race for , CA-2, a region that was formerly in Rep. Mike Thompson's and Lynn Woolsey's districts. Democrat Jared Huffman was the clear winner, with 37% of the vote but not a majority; so the crucial race for second place remained in doubt. (The second place finisher goes on to a head-to-head race with the first-place winner, no matter their party affiliation, in adopted for this year.)

Election night figures showed Republican Dan Roberts narrowly ahead of Democrat Norman Solomon district-wide, but Solomon's campaign has been aggressively keeping hopes alive for a come-from-behind second place finish, based on voting trends and outstanding, as-yet uncounted ballots.  

In Rohnert Park, however, the issue that draws the most attention is , the school parcel tax initiative, which was narrowly ahead. Because it was on the ballot as a tax, not a bond measure, a full two-thirds vote in favor is required for passage, thanks to the Prop. 13 initiative of many years ago (1978).   showed 66.9%  in favor, with 66.7% required for passage.

That's separating Measure D from success and failure, and an unknown number of votes yet to be counted. That's why school board representatives such as supervisor can only be

At the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters, election manager Liz Acosta clarified the situation about  post-polling election tabulation for Patch. "We've reported 18,000 vote-by-mail ballots returned at the polls," she said, "and another 15 or 1600 provisional votes that remain to be counted." Her figures reflect county-wide numbers, and are not applicable to district races like the Second Congressional

Provisional votes are those cast at a polling place by someone who is not on those precinct rolls. Usually it's someone at the rolling polling place, but whatever the reason the voter is allowed to fill out a ballot but his or her votes are put in a special "pink envelope," according to Acosta.

Elections workers then determine if the voter is registered and therefor eligible to vote, then if the races voted on are appropriate to the valid precinct. Votes for which the ballot is valid are counted, and those votes that the voter is not eligible to vote on are tossed.

There's actually a third category of votes to be counted, Acosta continued, and "we have a stack of those left," she said. These are damaged ballots that when put through the counting machine came out with misplaced marks, or were torn or folded. They have to be reconstructed on a clean ballot and put through the machine again, to assure accurate tabulation in all races and measures.

The final step is to make what amounts to an inventory of all ballots. "We literally have to account for every ballot we purchased," said Acosta. Like an accountant's final reconciliation, the total number of counted ballots, damaged ballots, uncast ballots, vote-by-mail and all other cases have to added up to make sure there's not a missing ballot box somewhere.

Once that is done, final vote totals are available, and close races are settled one way or the other.

By law voting registrars have 28 days to complete the process of accurately tabulating all votes. "We typically don't take that long," Acosta said. "My guess is that we'll have our totals by the end of the month."

When they do, Patch will let you know the outcome of the close races that affect you.

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