By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
County election workers kept plugging away Thursday, unpacking and verifying thousands of vote-by-mail ballots from Tuesday’s election.
Janice Atkinson, registrar of voters, said her estimate of having final, official election results by Thanksgiving still holds.
After Wednesday morning’s unofficial tally, most races in Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties appear to be resolved.
A few, including a school bond measure in Cloverdale and school board races in the Piner-Olivet and Cotati-Rohnert Park districts, were separated by 25 votes or fewer and could potentially change with the uncounted ballots.
By election night, about 94,000 vote-by-mail ballots had been counted, while an estimated 31,000 were still outstanding. By Thursday afternoon, workers had verified the signatures of about 15,000 of those, Atkinson said.
“We’re still plowing through them,” she said. “We’re still taking them out of the envelopes.”
Her office doesn’t provide daily updates on vote counts.
One time-consuming challenge, Atkinson said, is illegible, missing or outdated information on the exterior labels of mail-in ballots dropped off at the polls. All of that information needs to be checked and confirmed.
“The majority go in real fast. But there are ones that have issues,” she said. “We play these fun games, ‘Whose ballot is it?’ There are thousands of them.”
Once all of the mail-in ballots are reviewed, workers will begin checking provisional ballots. Those are from people whose eligibility couldn’t be verified at the polls.
That could include people who called on Election Day saying they never got a ballot, someone who forgot to sign their ballot, or a signature that doesn’t match one on file.
There usually are about 5,000 of those ballots, Atkinson said, each of which has to be confirmed.
Elections officials can’t determine where in the county the uncounted ballots originated because a voter can drop off a mail-in ballot at any polling place in the county or at the elections office.
Four out-of-county voters, one from San Mateo County and three from Lake County, turned in their ballots in Sonoma County, Atkinson said. They won’t count because the ballot has to be received in the proper county by 8 p.m. on Election Day.
She said election workers fielded a few calls wondering why certain results were slow coming in on election night.
In Petaluma, for instance, initial results were posted shortly after 8 p.m., but updates didn’t come in until around midnight.
She said ballots from Petaluma first go to a return center in town. There are about a dozen return centers countywide.
“They have to wait until all precincts have reported before they can head north,” she said. “If one precinct is slow, we have to wait.”