Evergreen schools race heads for recount

Clark County certifies results of Nov. 5 election

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

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Clark County 2013 final general election results

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One school board race in Vancouver is so close that Clark County elections officials will need to recount the ballots by hand, they announced Tuesday, when the canvassing board certified Nov. 5 election results.

In the Evergreen school board District 1 race, incumbent Julie Bocanegra has just 90 votes more than her challenger, Daniel Polleti, triggering an automatic recount under state law. This is Bocanegra's first election. She was appointed to the school board last year.

At first, "I knew it was going to be close. I wasn't quite sure my lead was enough," Bocanegra said Tuesday. Now, "I'm pretty hopeful that my lead will stay intact."

Historically, a recount doesn't change the election outcome by more than a few votes, she said. Polleti could not be reached by phone Tuesday afternoon.

There are 76,190 registered voters living in the Evergreen Public Schools district, and 25,805 voted in the race between Bocanegra and Polleti. The overall voter turnout in Clark County for the 2013 general election was 37.62 percent.

Had Bocanegra received just six more votes, the recount would not be needed, Clark County Elections Supervisor Cathie Garber said Tuesday. Under state law, elections officials must recount races that are fewer than 2,000 votes and less than half a percentage point apart.

The 2013 general election included a smorgasbord of local nonpartisan races and advisory votes. The official results certified Tuesday didn't change the outcome in any Clark County races. Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt still won re-election, most county voters still said they favor tighter restrictions on the use and sale of fireworks, and the slate of 15 county freeholders remained the same.

In the closest freeholder race, Randy Mueller beat Patricia Reyes by 46 votes. Mueller will represent District 1, Position 5 when freeholders meet to draft a new county charter, which would need to be approved later by voters. The race between Mueller and Reyes did not meet the threshold for a recount.

Ballots in the vote-by-mail election had to be postmarked by Election Day to count, and ballots trickled in for several days after the election. Election officials also had to pay special scrutiny to ballots that had write-in candidates or ballots that had questionable voter signatures.

They also encountered a few hiccups, including a computer server failure, but the team fixed the problem quickly and the election checks and balances put into place showed that every qualified ballot was counted, Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey said Tuesday.

Kimsey estimated it will cost $8,000 to hire temporary election workers to help with the recount next week, and three permanent election employees also will shift their focus to the recount. The group will work Monday through Thursday to gather all the ballots from voters in the Evergreen district, and they'll conduct the hand recount on Friday. Although recounts do cost money, they are an important quality control measure, Kimsey said.

"It's the ultimate test of the integrity of the election process," he said. Recounts are more likely to occur in smaller voter districts, and when there's a lower voter turnout, he added.

Just last year, two tight state Legislature races triggered manual recounts in Clark County. After the recount, state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, beat Democratic challenger Tim Probst by 76 votes, and Democrat Monica Stonier edged out Republican Julie Olson by 140 votes for a state House seat. Benton and Stonier were leading in their races before the recount.