Uncounted ballots won’t be tallied until Tuesday

Benton, Stonier maintain leads after Saturday tabulation session

By Mark Bowder, Columbian Assistant Metro Editor



Election watchers following two razor-thin legislative races will have to wait a few more days to see the impact of 1,178 ballots that were scanned but not counted by Clark County elections computers.

Clark County Elections Supervisor Tim Likness announced Saturday that officials expect the votes from those ballots to be tallied Tuesday; votes from another 340 ballots should be tallied Monday. All told, about 1,500 ballots remain to be tallied in the Nov. 6 election.

About 1,100 ballots were counted Saturday, and the tally affected only the margins of two hotly contested races in the 17th District.

Republican incumbent Don Benton held a 100-vote lead over Democrat Tim Probst in the race for the 17th District Senate seat, according to the latest results. In the 17th District House race, Democrat Monica Stonier held a 121-vote lead over Republican Julie Olson.

The two 17th District races, the closest in the state, could be headed for a manual recount; elections officials are required to recount ballots in races that are closer than 2,000 votes and also closer than one half of a percentage point.

Only 0.19 of a percentage point separates Benton and Probst as of Saturday, while 0.22 separates Stonier and Olson.

Probst had a 222-vote lead on election night. Benton gained a 65-vote lead on Tuesday and has maintained a small lead since then. On election night, Olson had a 78-vote lead over Stonier, but Stonier pulled ahead of Olson a week ago.

The process of certifying the Nov. 6 election took an unexpected twist on Friday when elections officials discovered that ballots from 1,178 voters had been scanned but not counted.

On Saturday, Likness said officials suspect that a faulty data card prevented votes from ballots scanned on or before Election Day from being counted on the county’s tabulation computer. He said officials will know for sure on Tuesday, when they attempt to add the missed ballots back into the ballot count.

The county uses a two-computer system of scanning and counting ballots. One machine scans the ballots, saving data onto its hard drive and a data card. A second machine reads the data off the memory cards and tallies the vote.

Likness sad the county uses the two-computer system because it allows ballots to be scanned as they are received without violating laws that forbid tallying the vote until Election Day. He said the tabulation computer remains sealed until the evening of Elections Day.

If recounts are necessary, they would likely begin during the first week of December. Election results aren’t certified until 21 days after an election, and the 17th District ballots must be separated from the rest of the county’s ballots.

As of Saturday, voter turnout was at 78.71 percent.

Mark Bowder: 360-735-4512; mark.bowder@columbian.com.

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