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Little change to tight Sonoma County races with updated election count

Races in Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Petaluma and Healdsburg were still too close to call after the county elections office posted updated results Friday.|

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An additional 13,432 ballots were processed and added Friday to Sonoma County election results, but the updated totals did little to decide a handful of close local races that remain hanging in the balance after Tuesday’s midterm election.

In one case, the tight race for Santa Rosa’s District 4 council seat, the margin narrowed to 67 votes between challenger Terry Sanders and incumbent Victoria Fleming.

It could take weeks to know the outcome of that race and others in Sebastopol, Petaluma and Healdsburg.

Another update isn’t expected until early next week and even then it’s likely to represent a small fraction of the ballots left to be counted, said Deva Proto, the county’s elections chief.

Meanwhile, two ballot measures — a public safety tax in Santa Rosa and a ban on fireworks in Cloverdale — were still leading, while candidates that were on track to win council races in Rohnert Park and Cloverdale held their leads.

Election officials have counted 113,955 ballots countywide, according to results posted by 5 p.m. Friday.

That’s up from 100,523 ballots counted as of the last update shortly before 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Proto had earlier projected turnout could top 70% but on Friday said it might surpass that, though she couldn’t provide an estimate of how many total ballots the county received.

Based on a 70% turnout projection, there could be more than 100,000 uncounted ballots. There are 304,066 registered voters in Sonoma County.

Until those ballots are processed, it won’t be clear where they are from or how they could affect the tight races.

“We have a massive amount of work to do,” Proto said. “We understand everybody wants results quickly but we have lot of processes and laws that we have to follow to ensure the election integrity is maintained and we ask everyone to please be patient with us as we work through all of our requirements.”

Here’s a look at the tight races:

  • Santa Rosa City Council District 4: The margin between Fleming and Sanders, which had been up to 124 votes in early returns, was halved in the latest update Friday, with Sanders now leading by 67 votes, or 39.7% of those cast in the race to 38.7% for Fleming.
  • Sebastopol City Council: Five candidates are running for three seats on the Sebastopol council but all five are separated by just 3.6 percentage points, or 168 votes. The top three vote-getters maintained their lead with the count update, with Jill McLewis receiving 22.1% of the vote, followed by Stephen Zollman with 20.6% and Sandra Maurer with 20.1%.
  • Petaluma City Council: Two of three council races remain undecided. The District 3 race includes Karen Nau, with 37.3% of the vote, John Hanania, with 34.6% and Robert Conklin with 28.2%. In District 2, John Shribbs has widened his lead over David Adams with 53.4% to Adams’ 39.7%.
  • Healdsburg City Council: A third seat on the Healdsburg council, a 2-year term to fill the vacancy left by Skylaer Palacios’ May resignation, also remains close with just 54 votes separating Ron Edwards and Brigette Mansell.

Measure K, a proposed ban on sales and use of fireworks in Cloverdale, remains on track to win.

With 2,005 ballots counted, Measure K was ahead with 54.7% of the vote — a small decrease from Wednesday morning when supporters led with 55% of the vote.

Cloverdale is the last Sonoma County municipality allowing use and sales of July 4 fireworks. Measure K would enact a citywide fireworks ban except for supervised and professional public pyrotechnic shows.

Measure H, an extension to Santa Rosa’s quarter-cent sales tax, also was still on track to pass with 73.3% of 32,932 votes counted.

Voters approved the tax in 2004 to fund police and fire services. It’s on tap to expire in March 2025 and the ballot measure proposes extending it another 20 years.

The tax increase, which brings the city’s sales tax to 9.25%, helps pay for more than 25 Santa Rosa police and fire positions, public safety equipment and youth and family violence prevention programs, officials say.

A large number of mail ballots were submitted at the last minute which has slowed the process.

The bulk of outstanding ballots include those dropped off on Election Day or postmarked by Tuesday that are still coming in to the county elections office. Those mailed ballots must arrive within a week of the election to be counted.

Proto said part of the delay is that after verifying the signature on a mail ballot there are several steps her office must follow before the ballot is counted. Workers have to sort ballots, slice envelopes, extract the ballot and unfold them before they are scanned and counted, she said.

“That just takes time,” she said.

Her office must also process provisional ballots and conduct a hand count of a share of the ballots cast, she said, which ensures elections equipment is working properly.

Petaluma Argus-Courier Editor Don Frances contributed to this story. You can reach Staff Writer Paulina Pineda at 707-521-5268 or paulina.pineda@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @paulinapineda22.

Paulina Pineda

Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park city reporter

Decisions made by local elected officials have some of the biggest day-to-day impacts on residents, from funding investments in roads and water infrastructure to setting policies to address housing needs and homelessness. As a city reporter, I want to track those decisions and how they affect the community while also highlighting areas that are being neglected or can be improved.

North Bay election results

For up-to-the minute results on races across the North Bay and California: election.pressdemocrat.com

Click here for complete Press Democrat election coverage.

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