Two weeks after the election, approximately 32,000 last-minute Sonoma County ballots have yet to be counted, keeping the outcome of some close races a mystery for a little longer.
Final results are not going to be known until early next week, leaving some candidates in prolonged suspense, including those running for Petaluma mayor and a seat on the Healdsburg City Council.
All election results will probably be known and released Monday, or Tuesday by the latest, according to Gloria Colter, chief deputy registrar of voters.
“People are clamoring for answers,” Colter said. “The assumption is it’s just taking forever and why not now?”
She confirmed that “not a single ballot has been counted, beyond what was counted on election (night),” meaning about 23 percent of the approximate 144,000 votes cast have yet to be tallied in results.
The wait isn’t much different from recent past elections, where thousands of last-minute mail-in ballots took awhile to be verified and counted. But for candidates in some contests, it can result in close to three weeks of uncertainty.
In Healdsburg, the most razor-thin contest in the county, only 10 votes separated second-place finisher Jeff Civian and third-place Brigette Mansell on election night, making the race for two council positions too close to call.
“Everybody is continually asking me why it’s taking so long,” Mansell said Tuesday.
As a high school teacher, she recognizes it’s a lesson in the adage that every vote counts. But she said the wait has postponed plans that any candidate would need to make based on the election outcome.
Civian said he checks the county elections website three or four times a day to see if final results have been posted, but isn’t letting the suspense get to him.
“It would be great to know. I’m curious. But it’s not wearing me down,” he said Tuesday.
Officials have until Dec. 2 to certify the election results.
In Petaluma, 211 votes separated tentative first-place finisher Mike Harris and second-place David Glass in the race for mayor, out of more than 14,000 votes counted two weeks ago.
“It’s simply too close to call,” Harris said Tuesday, adding that he is cautiously optimistic.
The process of tallying the last-minute mail-in ballots and provisional ballots, as well as verifying signatures and other safeguards is time-consuming, Colter said. The previously counted ballots on Nov. 4 election night also need to be counted again before results are certified.
Election officials counted close to 111,000 ballots on Nov. 4. Those included 32,001 votes cast at 417 precincts that day and 78,643 mail-in ballots received by Nov. 2.
But close to 32,000 uncounted ballots remain, including mail-in ballots received on Election Day and the day before, mail-in ballots dropped off at precincts and provisional ballots. Those ballots will be tallied by card-reading machines on Thursday and Friday.
Colter said that over the past two weeks, her staff has been checking more than 3,000 provisional ballots and double-checking approximately 200 that could be rejected, for example, if someone was not registered to vote.
She said manual tallies are also required by state law for a minimum of five precincts, as well as an additional 10 precincts to ensure every city, school, fire district and board of education race is included.