Estimated 45,000 Sonoma County mail-in ballots still uncounted in Tuesday primary

Sonoma County’s top election official said mail-in ballots were still coming in Wednesday. The next scheduled update to results is Friday.|

An early inventory of mail-in ballots that still must be counted in Tuesday’s primary show voter participation likely will fall below original projections, Sonoma County’s top election official said.

Roughly 45,000 vote-by-mail ballots are outstanding, according to Registrar of Voters Deva Proto.

With nearly 57,500 ballots counted Tuesday night, participation likely will reach about 34%, mirroring low turnout seen statewide. There are 304,008 registered voters in the county.

Just 18% of voters statewide had returned a mail-in ballot or cast a vote during early in-person voting and participation at the polls by Tuesday afternoon wasn’t any better, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Early projections from Proto’s office showed local turnout was on track to match the 48% in the last midterm primary in 2018. Proto was optimistic it could surpass that and hit 50%. That would’ve meant as many as 95,000 ballots still needed to be processed.

Wednesday’s inventory showed far fewer uncounted ballots likely remain.

“Turnout does look like it will be on the low side,” she said Wednesday afternoon. “We will get better numbers as we start to process them and continue to receive mail.”

Updated election results aren’t expected to be released until Friday, Proto said.

That means candidates in several races too close too call Tuesday night or where none of the candidates received a simple majority could be in for an extended wait to know if they’ll win outright or head to a November runoff.

Eddie Engram led in the three-way race for Sonoma County sheriff but was just shy of the simple majority needed to win the seat outright.

Engram, an assistant county sheriff who oversees the county jail, had 50% of the 52,561 votes counted, leading Carl Tennenbaum with 27% and Dave Edmonds with 13% of the vote.

If Engram can’t capture more than 50% of the total votes cast, the marquee countywide race on the June ballot — and only the second contested sheriff’s election in the past 25 years — will head to a runoff.

Similarly, none of the candidates for Sonoma County superintendent of schools had enough votes as of Tuesday night to win the post. Amie Carter led with 44.8% of the vote.

And in one of two judicial races, just 760 votes separated defense attorney Joseph Passalacqua and Oscar Pardo, a civil litigator.

The latest results posted late Tuesday night included 57,437 votes. That included ballots received by mail, processed and scanned by 8 p.m., though that doesn’t include all of the early ballots that were mailed in, votes cast during early voting and the roughly 3,300 votes cast at the polls on Election Day, Proto said.

The reported tally represents an 18.9% turnout.

Election workers must still finish processing and counting mail-in ballots that were postmarked by Election Day and sent to the county office as well as those dropped off on Tuesday and provisional ballots.

Ballots postmarked on or before Election Day that are received within seven days of the election will be counted.

Proto said her office received 22 trays of mail Wednesday.

Election workers on Wednesday were taking an inventory of items from equipment to spoiled ballots and preparing for the manual ballot tally. They’ll also begin the process of sorting through mail-in ballots where workers will check voter signatures and extract and scan the ballots.

The majority of votes should be posted within the first two weeks of the election, with smaller updates expected over the next month until the election is certified, she said.

In addition to the sheriff’s, judicial and school superintendent races, the local ballot included contested races for two seats on the Board of Supervisors representing north and south county.

Incumbent David Rabbitt had a strong lead in his bid for a fourth term representing Sonoma County’s 2nd supervisorial district with 58.75% over Blake Hooper (35.97%) and Kevin Hayenga (5.28%). It was unclear if the outstanding ballots could shift the outcome of that race.

Supervisor James Gore coasted to a win Tuesday night, securing a third term representing Sonoma County’s 4th District.

Staff reporters Colin Atagi, Emma Murphy, Kaylee Tornay and Emily Wilder contributed to this story.

You can reach Staff Writer Paulina Pineda at 707-521-5268 or On Twitter @paulinapineda22.

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