WatchSonoma Watch

County yet to count 23% of ballots



Two weeks after the election, as many as 41,700 mail-in and provisional ballots remain uncounted in Sonoma County, about 23 percent of the total cast by voters.

The tally of unprocessed ballots has left at least three local races undecided. And that is unlikely to change for another two weeks, with county officials saying it’s probable they will need the full 28 days allowed under state law, until Dec. 4, to complete the count and certify the vote.

The long wait isn’t unusual. Most counties still are poring over mail-in and provisional ballots in an effort to meet the deadline.

Until then, Sonoma County will not provide updates on the vote count, spurning a practice that officials from other counties say is useful to keep voters and candidates informed.

Janice Atkinson, Sonoma County’s elected clerk-recorder-assessor and registrar of voters, disagrees. She said preliminary updates don’t work well with the county’s vote-processing system and would only delay the final count. She also questioned the value of releasing periodic, unofficial results.

“I want the candidates to have final results as soon as possible,” she said. “When you have a close contest, you have to count all the ballots. Updates don’t help.”

The decision of whether to update vote counts before releasing final results is left up to counties. In the North Bay, Marin County updates its numbers while Mendocino and Napa counties do not.

Some see value in the updates, saying they provide transparency, said Cathy Darling Allen, president of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials. Others see them as a distraction.

“It’s a personal decision for each registrar to make,” Darling Allen said.

Shasta County, where Darling Allen oversees elections, provides updates.

The interim updates do not delay the final vote count in Marin County, said Elaine Ginnold, Marin’s registrar of voters.

“I think it is good information for people. Even if it isn’t finished, people want to know what is happening,” Ginnold said.

The issue resurfaces especially in general elections amid the clash of two trends: The expectation of immediate voting results through the help of digital technology and the growth of mail-in ballot use, which actually can delay final results, requiring extensive work to verify and count votes.

Provisional ballots cast by voters whose registration or polling place is in question can take even more time to tally, Darling Allen said.

As of Monday, only 13 of California’s 58 counties had completed their final count, according to a report by the state Secretary of State’s Office.

Aside from Alameda County, most were large rural counties with sparse populations.

Among the counties still working away, Los Angeles has the most uncounted ballots at 518,000. Behind it are Orange County (107,000), San Diego (92,000) and Sacramento (77,292).

Based on revised numbers county officials provided, Sonoma County ranks 10th on the list, with 35,553 uncounted mail-in ballots and an estimated 6,150 provisional ballots.

Atkinson was unable to specify Monday exactly which districts those uncounted ballots came from. But she used turnout rates from the total number of mail-in ballots returned to estimate that just more than 15,000 may come from the 10th Assembly District, where incumbent Democrat Michael Allen is trailing Democratic challenger Marc Levine.

Levine, a San Rafael city councilman, has claimed victory in the race and widened his lead over the weekend to two percentage points, based on Marin County vote updates. Allen has refused to concede, saying the race could hinge on the final results.

Other close races where uncounted ballots could affect the outcome include:

The Sebastopol City Council race, where incumbent Kathleen Shaffer trailed challenger John Eder by nine votes in a battle for the final contested seat. Atkinson estimated just more than 700 mail-in ballots could affect the race.

The Santa Rosa school board race, where newcomers Jenni Klose and Brian Noble were separated by 1,055 votes, with Klose leading. Atkinson estimated more than 14,200 mail-in ballots could factor in that race.

You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or brett. wilkison@pressdemocrat.com.

12 Responses to “County yet to count 23% of ballots”

  1. Edward Jenning Bryan says:


    “Someday soon someone will take out a calculator and figure out the cost per vote for Allen and Levine. That’s the true measure of Allen’s negatives.”

    I too dram about the Election Department actually completing their tally.

  2. Juvenal says:

    @ Jean Anderson

    “This year, True The Vote uncovered more than 348,000 dead people on the rolls in 27 states.
    California: 49,000
    Florida: 30,000
    Texas: 28,500
    Michigan: 25,000
    Illinois: 24,000″

    Ms. Andereson, I am quite sure that if the dead vote, they do not vote in even thousand zombie cohorts.

  3. Dan J Drummond says:

    True the Vote says it is nonpartisan, but it began as an outgrowth of the King Street Patriots, a nonprofit Tea Party organization mostly active in Texas. In addition, the group has been described as “racist,” as they tend to focus on minority voting precincts. Several members of the King Street Patriots, including its president, Catherine Englebrecht, were dissatisfied with the voting process in Harris County, Texas during the 2008 election, especially the shortage of poll workers, which they believed “invited fraud and other problems at the polls.” During the 2010 election season, True the Vote trained over a thousand volunteers to monitor elections in Texas. There have been no reports of voter monitoring in predominantly Caucasian precincts or precincts with high income or education levels.

    In 2012, True the Vote applied to the Franklin County Board of Elections to place polling observers in Columbus area districts with large African-American populations. In November 2012, an investigation by the FCBOE in Ohio found that five of the six signatures on the application were forged. Because this type of fraud is a fifth degree felony, the FCBOE declared that an investigation will be conducted after the election.

    From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/True_the_Vote

  4. Jean Anderson says:

    Useful Idiots who Voted for Obama – 1

    America – 0

  5. Jean Anderson says:

    But at least there’s no voter fraud here – count on!

    From the True the Vote web site

    To date, 46 states have prosecuted or convicted cases of voter fraud.
    More than 24 million voter registrations are invalid, yet remain on the rolls nation-wide.
    There are over 1.8 million dead voters still eligible on the rolls across the country.
    More than 2.75 million Americans are registered to vote in more than one state.
    True The Vote recently found 99 cases of potential felony interstate voter fraud.
    Maryland affiliates of True The Vote uncovered cases of people registering and voting after their respective deaths.
    This year, True The Vote uncovered more than 348,000 dead people on the rolls in 27 states.
    California: 49,000
    Florida: 30,000
    Texas: 28,500
    Michigan: 25,000
    Illinois: 24,000
    12 Indiana counties have more registered voters than residents.
    The Ohio Secretary of State admitted that multiple Ohio counties have more registered voters than residents.
    Federal records showed 160 counties in 19 states have over 100 percent voter registration.
    The Florida New Majority Education Fund, Democratic Party of Florida and the National Council of La Raza are currently under investigation for alleged voter registration fraud.

    How popular is Voter ID?

    74 percent of Americans support, according to The Washington Post.
    71 percent of Latinos support it, according to the PEW Research Center.

  6. homegirl says:

    “Los Angeles is expected to provide a vote update today after 1pm. Richard Bloom has a 291-vote lead over Betsy Butler in AD50.

    If Bloom pulls it out, it will be a huge disappointment for the Assembly Democratic Caucus, which invested heavily for two of its “transferred” caucus members. Democratic party entities spent $436,764 on Betsy Butler and $836,514 on Michael Allen in AD10. In the general, labor groups independently spent $382,887 to oppose Bloom and $214,911 to support Butler. $306,189 to support Allen and $312,120 to oppose Marc Levine.

    That’s nearly $2.5 million on two safe Democratic seats. Some caucus members have offered some criticisms that a portion of that investment could have been spent in AD36, where Steve Fox came close to stealing a Republican district, or to give Cathleen Galgiani a better shot at the too-close-to-call SD05. Down the stretch, money was shifted from that San Joaquin-based district to Riverside, as Richard Roth was deemed to have a better chance. Clearly, in a race that could very well be decided by 100 votes or less, another hundred thousand into the ground campaign at the end would have been huge.

    Speaker Perez did his job, but there’s likely going to be future conversations in both parties about how to spend money in these top two races.”

    Someday soon someone will take out a calculator and figure out the cost per vote for Allen and Levine. That’s the true measure of Allen’s negatives.

  7. Critic at Large says:

    All of this delay is the fault of the way California encourages people to register to vote at the last minute and to submit by email. The gross number of ballot issues is another bad issue for ballot counting.

    Every little group in the state that feels offended has a petition ready to go. More often than not, very poorly worded and if you think you are voting against it, you are really voting for it.

    This 33 days to count does nothing but undermine voter confidence in the system. It is the same system we used in the 19th century when we used horses and the telegraph to inform voters who won. It took a sailing ship leaving New York about 33 days to round the horn to deliver the news to San Francisco.

    This is government incompetence at its worst.

  8. homegirl says:

    Michael Allen and his supporters spent ove $1.2 million andjust as on the natonal level-they couldn’t buy the election. The people win.

  9. Reality Check says:

    Is anyone in Sacramento even talking about reforming this dysfunctional system? And of course interim results should be released. How we could have an elected official that thinks otherwise is mystifying.

  10. 20/20 vision says:

    This delay is completely expected. Janice Atkinson is just like her predecessor. She does what she wants when she wants. She doesn’t care about the public at large.

    There was a scandal in Petaluma a few years ago when it was discovered that numerous Petaluma police officers used the police station as their address on their voter registration. Purposely falsifying information on a voter registration form is considered perjury and is a punishable offense. It says so in a number of places on the form. Look at one if you don’t believe me. So instead of this information being sent to the DA for prosecution, the officers got a kind phone call from our Register of Voters, She probably changed their information over the phone, also illegal.

  11. Snarky says:

    Calm down, everyone, it takes time behind the scenes to manipulate and alter ballots so that the corruption in Sonoma County can continue.

    The desired election result will come about. Be patient.

  12. Terry says:

    Obviously I do not understand the counting process, but why should this take so long considering the fact that the mail-ins are computer reader cards just like at the polling station? Other than having to open an envelope and noting which precinct, why should this take so long? Maybe we should review the efficiencies, if any, that are currently being used.