Nearly 1 in 4 ballots in Sonoma County still uncounted

Two weeks after the election, as many as 41,700 mail-in and provisional ballots remain uncounted in Sonoma County, about 23 percent of the total cast by voters.

The tally of unprocessed ballots has left at least three local races undecided. And that is unlikely to change for another two weeks, with county officials saying it's probable they will need the full 28 days allowed under state law, until Dec. 4, to complete the count and certify the vote.

The long wait isn't unusual. Most counties still are poring over mail-in and provisional ballots in an effort to meet the deadline.

Until then, Sonoma County will not provide updates on the vote count, spurning a practice that officials from other counties say is useful to keep voters and candidates informed.

Janice Atkinson, Sonoma County's elected clerk-recorder-assessor and registrar of voters, disagrees. She said preliminary updates don't work well with the county's vote-processing system and would only delay the final count. She also questioned the value of releasing periodic, unofficial results.

"I want the candidates to have final results as soon as possible," she said. "When you have a close contest, you have to count all the ballots. Updates don't help."

The decision of whether to update vote counts before releasing final results is left up to counties. In the North Bay, Marin County updates its numbers while Mendocino and Napa counties do not.

Some see value in the updates, saying they provide transparency, said Cathy Darling Allen, president of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials. Others see them as a distraction.

"It's a personal decision for each registrar to make," Darling Allen said.

Shasta County, where Darling Allen oversees elections, provides updates.

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