Late absentee ballots slow vote count
Late absentee ballots slow vote count
Updated at 12:18 p.m. Tuesday, November 11 in BOLD
Alamedans have experienced a week of suspense as they wait for all the votes to be counted in the super-close mayor’s race.
While the poll results were tallied and posted shortly after midnight on Wednesday, Alameda County’s Registrar of Voters still had nearly 125,000 ballots left to process – 82,000 of them vote-by-mail ballots walked in to polling stations on Election Day.
“It’s like somebody dropped 82,000 pieces of mail on our doorstep at one time,” Alameda County Registrar of Voters Tim Dupuis said.
The registrar got about 112,000 vote by mail ballots before day-of election preparations began, Dupuis said – ballots election workers had several weeks to count.
The additional, day-of absentee votes pushed this year’s count through the weekend; provisional ballots were still being counted Monday. As of early Tuesday morning, Trish Spencer was leading the mayor's race by 129 votes, a gap it now seems highly unlikely Mayor Marie Gilmore will be able to bridge.
The count is set to continue Wednesday, and Alameda County Registrar Tim Dupuis said he hopes he'll be offer able to complete it and provide final, unofficial numbers then. The votes that are still to be tallied are mainly provisional ballots that election workers need to remake by hand because the county's voting machines can't read them, Dupuis said. He said it's hard to know how many are left since they're divided into several trays that aren't full, but he offered a rough estimate of 5,000 to 6,000 votes that remain to be counted for all of Alameda County.
In Alameda's other close race - for a third seat on the Alameda Health Care District Board of Directors - newcomer Jim Meyers extended his lead over incumbent Lynn Bratchett to 195 votes, results released early Tuesday morning show.
For years, election officials across the state pushed vote-by-mail balloting as an easy alternative to day-of voting at the polls, and one that allowed busy voters greater time flexibility in casting their ballot. The push worked: About half of Alameda County’s voters, and nearly two-thirds of the City of Alameda’s, are registered to vote by mail.
But getting voters to submit their ballot ahead of Election Day has proved to be more difficult. For this November’s election, a little under half of voters who cast vote-by-mail ballots sent them in too late to be counted ahead of Election Day or walked them into the polls.
Those walk-in ballots are set aside by poll workers and brought en masse to the registrar’s Oakland offices, where the ballots are opened and signatures checked before they can be counted. Ballots that can't be read by voting machines have to be remade by election workers, by hand.
The count has made for a tense wait for Gilmore and Spencer, who have spent much of the past week at the registrar’s offices as workers counted more than 7,000 additional absentee and provisional votes – more than a third of the total number of ballots cast in the November 4 mayor’s race.
Dupuis said he expects the wait for results in close races to worsen in 2016, when voters will be selecting a new president. The wait could also be aggravated by a new state law that requires county election officials to tally ballots that arrive up to three days after Election Day if they are postmarked on or before the election.
Dupuis urged voters with vote by mail ballots to cast them well in advance of Election Day.
“I want to see people vote,” he said. “I would also like for us to be able to get the answers to these elections out quicker.”
As of 1:34 a.m. Tuesday, November 11
Marie Gilmore (i): 10,314/49.53%
Trish Spencer: 10,443/50.15
ALAMEDA HEALTH CARE DISTRICT BOARD
Lynn Bratchett (i): 7,326/21.62
Jim Meyers: 7,518/22.18