Benton, Stonier keep leads after 500 more ballots counted

Benton leads by 105; Stonier leads by 120

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian Assistant Metro Editor



State Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, and House candidate Monica Stonier, a Democrat, continue to lead slightly in their 17th District legislative races after about 500 more votes were counted by Clark County elections officials Monday.

In Benton’s bid for re-election, he’s ahead of his challenger, state Rep. Tim Probst, D-Vancouver, by 105 votes. In the race to replace Probst in the House, Stonier leads her Republican challenger, Julie Olson, by a 120-vote margin.

Of the 538 ballots counted Monday, 149 were from the 17th Legislative District.

The impact of the 1,178 ballots previously scanned but not counted by elections computers won’t be known until today, when those ballots are expected to be tabulated by officials.

Clark County Elections Supervisor Tim Likness said officials suspect that a faulty data card prevented the county’s tabulation computer from counting votes from ballots scanned on or before Election Day.

“Those (ballots) will get added in tomorrow,” Likness said by phone on Monday, and that will reveal the cause for sure. It is not known how many of those uncounted ballots are from the 17th District.

Likness has invited representatives of the Benton, Probst, Olson and Stonier campaigns to a meeting this afternoon to learn more about the ballot-counting problem.

Both 17th District legislative races could be headed for a manual recount because elections officials are required to recount ballots in races that are separated by fewer than 2,000 votes and less than one-half of a percentage point.

Just 0.19 of a percentage point separated Benton and Probst as of Monday, while 0.22 separated Stonier and Olson.

Only a small number of additional ballots are expected to trickle in through the mail, as ballots had to be postmarked by Election Day to qualify. On Monday, the elections office received just eight more ballots that had been postmarked by Election Day. The late-arriving ballots are likely from military or overseas voters.

Additionally, there are about 1,600 ballots that have been challenged because of signature problems.

Voters whose signatures were missing from their ballots, or whose signatures were deemed suspect, have until Monday to go to the elections department and resolve the problem. Those voters have already been notified by election officials. Once the questioned ballots are “cured,” they are included in the election results, Likness said.

In Clark County, voter turnout is at nearly 80 percent.