Updated election results released Wednesday showed local conservatives making gains in the county’s two closest races.
State Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, still trails Democratic challenger Tim Probst in the 17th District, but Probst’s lead shrank from 222 to 102 votes.
In the 17th District race for Probst’s former seat in the state House of Representatives, Republican Julie Olson extended her lead over Democrat Monica Stonier from 78 to 128 votes.
Olson said Wednesday she’s feeling positive about the likelihood she’ll extend her lead.
“Historically, later ballots tend to go our way,” Olson said. She said she gained 2 percent in August’s primary between the first and final counts.
Stonier said there’s still thousands of votes to be counted, and she’s heard from a lot of people who turn ballots in just before the deadline.
Benton expressed confidence Tuesday that he would prevail. Probst said Wednesday it’s true that late votes have favored Republicans in the past.
“We’re just going to have to see whether we buck the trend or not,” Probst said.
The Benton-Probst race is the closest statewide among state Senate contests. Democrats hold a 27-22 majority in the Senate.
Also Wednesday, Clark County Commissioner Tom Mielke, a Republican, extended his lead over Democrat Joe Tanner and Republican David Madore extended his lead over Clark County Commissioner Marc Boldt, also a Republican.
Madore leads by 9,064 votes in a contest Boldt conceded on Tuesday.
Mielke leads by 3,182 votes. Tanner said Wednesday his campaign volunteers have encouraged him to wait for all of the votes to be counted before conceding.
“We’ve worked on this campaign for nine months and it doesn’t hurt to watch another day,” Tanner said.
An additional 12,554 ballots were counted Wednesday, including 3,420 ballots from the 17th District.
They were part of approximately 64,000 ballots that came in on Election Day and Wednesday, said the county’s elections supervisor, Tim Likness.
He said he hoped most of the ballots would be counted today and Friday.
Of the ballots left to be counted, approximately 15,000 are from the 17th District, said county Auditor Greg Kimsey.
More than 100 elections workers were busy at the Clark County Elections Department on Wednesday. They sat around large tables, studiously eyeing the ballots before them.
The signatures of many ballots that came in on Tuesday and Wednesday had been put through the verification process. The next task at hand: check each ballot for write-in candidates or irregularities, such as a ballot filled out in pencil rather than pen.
Each ballot is examined at least three times, and even more times if there are any irregularities.
Ballots had to be postmarked by Tuesday, so some will continue to trickle in through the mail in the coming days. Likness estimated that roughly 2,000 more ballots might make their way to the elections department through the mail.
By Wednesday, the Clark County Elections Department had received 191,513 of the 243,155 ballots sent to registered voters in the general election.
So far, that’s a voter turnout of 78.8 percent.