By MARY CALLAHAN and BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County elections officials who were verifying thousands of absentee ballots Wednesday said more ballots remain to be counted than in past years and could delay results for weeks.
More than 26,000 absentee ballots were left to be counted in Sonoma County, said Sonoma County Registrar of Voters Janice Atkinson.
She said primary elections in 2006 and 2008 saw respective totals of 25,000 and 20,000 of those ballots, which are either collected at the polls or at the Registrar of Voters office on Election Day.
“It’s more than I’ve seen in the past,” said Atkinson, whose career with Sonoma County spans 38 years.
Sonoma County election workers issued about 155,000 mail-in ballots, of which only about 63,000 were counted as of Election Day, Atkinson said.
The remaining uncounted absentee ballots, plus a still-unknown number of provisional and problem ballots, won’t be tallied for another three weeks, when officials are set to finalize results.
The delay means the outcome of some tight races could hang in the balance until late June, Atkinson said.
But the extra time, which elections workers use to sort absentee ballots and verify signatures, avoids the headaches that can result from issuing daily updates, as done in other counties, Atkinson said.
“If your election is really close, then doing updates isn’t any good,” she said. “Until you count the last vote, you don’t know who is going to win anyway.”
On Wednesday, stacks of ballots were in dozens of boxes brought to the elections office from throughout the county.
About 20 percent, or 5,000 of those ballots, are from Democrats casting their votes in the tight race for the 7th Assembly district.
Only about 500 votes separate the top two candidates in that contest, former Santa Rosa planning commissioner Michael Allen and Vallejo City Councilman Michael Wilson.
“I would say that is definitely the closest,” Atkinson said of the 7th District race. “That’s the one I said last night, ‘This is the one. If anything’s going to change, this would be the one.’”
The district covers three counties, Sonoma, Solano and Napa.
Election offices have 28 days to count, verify and certify their results.