At least 40% of Sonoma County ballots to remain uncounted until Friday

Sonoma County election officials continued to receive and process mail ballots Wednesday, after counting and reporting more than 100,000 total ?ballots overnight.

As many as 92,000 ballots may remain untallied, however, based on officials’ top projected turnout of 70% in Tuesday’s primary. That would account for potentially as much as 47% of the vote, according to a Press Democrat analysis.

Deva Proto, the county’s registrar of voters, said the newspaper’s estimate seemed high, but plausible based on top ?projected turnout.

She projected turnout of 65% to 70%, which translates to a range of 78,350 to 92,300 uncounted ballots, according to the newspaper’s analysis.

But Proto could not say Wednesday how many ballots her office expected to receive and count in the coming days.

Election workers are sifting through the tens of thousands of ballots mailed to the county by Tuesday or dropped off at ?175 polling places. The office has no immediate plans to update the results until Friday, Proto said.

She could not say which precincts accounted for the untallied ballots or how they could affect some races where outcomes remained in the balance.

Those include Measure G, the proposed countywide half-cent sales tax to bolster fire services and prevention, which was falling short Wednesday, and several school bond initiatives that remained too close to call.

Tuesday was the county’s first primary with a new vote-counting system. The elections office endured a few bumps but it went “pretty well” overall, Proto said.

“There’s always little random hiccups that happen, but for the most part they were pretty minimal,” Proto said. “Our staff was wonderful and we got a lot of ballots in and processed, and now we get to do the canvass.”

There was a slight hitch shortly after midnight when internet maintenance dropped the registrar’s service for a few minutes, right as the county was attempting to publish a batch of votes, Proto said.

“It freaked us out for a second,” she said.

The elections division also had to tamp down fears about the spread of the coronavirus, which prompted officials to tout the benefits of hand-washing and pass out disinfectant wipes at polling places, Proto said. Her office also had to scramble to implement a last-minute election law meant to ease primary participation that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed in mid-February.

The new voting system, billed as a major technological upgrade, came with the expectation that local election results, long among the slowest to post in the state, would be updated faster and more frequently.

While waiting until Friday for the next update may seem like a delay to some, Sonoma County’s previous system would not have allowed such a report before the final certification, which is due by the end of the month, Proto said.

“Friday is about 20 days sooner than we could have done it before,” she said.

As of Wednesday morning, 103,724 ballots had been cast and reported, according to the county’s online election results. That represents about 37% of the county’s 279,240 registered voters, not including those who registered conditionally after the deadline last month. More than 80% of county voters cast mail ballots.

Turnout in the last presidential primary in 2016 was 65% in Sonoma County. Turnout in the November general election that year was 78%.

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