The Humboldt County Elections Office is zeroing in final election tallies, and has inched closer to determining the final number of ballots outstanding in the nail-biter of a race for Eureka’s Ward 3 city council seat.
When the dust settled from Election Day, incumbent Mike Newman led challenger Kim Bergel by 104 votes, having taken 50.76 percent of the vote to Bergel’s 48.8 percent. The Journal
did some numbers crunching the following morning and estimated that Bergel would need there to be at least 1,200 outstanding ballots in the race to have a chance at bridging the gap, barring some kind of statistical anomaly in voting patterns. Well, it looks like this one’s going down to the wire; the final tally of yet-to-be-counted ballots is right in that neighborhood.
Humboldt County Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich said today that 1,065 vote-by-mail ballots remain at play in the race, a number that includes those dropped off at the polls on Election Day and those that came into the elections office on Monday and Tuesday of election week. Additionally, Crnich said 236 provisional ballots were cast at Eureka polling locations that have yet to be vetted and counted, and another unknown amount of damaged ballots from the polls still have to be tallied (Crnich estimated this number to be “fewer than 100”). So, all told, that leaves between 1,065 and 1,401 ballots still at play in the race, depending on how many of those provisional ballots are valid and the final tally of damaged Eureka ballots.
In the final election night results, Newman took 56.61 percent of the early vote-by-mail ballots, but just 45.51 percent of the vote at the polls on Election Day to Bergel’s 54.13. Traditionally, late-arriving vote-by-mail ballots trend more in the direction of the Election Day tallies.
So, if we chew the numbers Crnich provided today, here’s what we get: With 1,065 outstanding ballots, Bergel would need to take 54.92 percent to take the lead; with 1,401 outstanding ballots, she’d need to take 53.75 percent.
In the three-way race Newman won to take office back in 2010, Newman took 48.18 percent of the early vote-by-mail ballots and 41.98 percent of the Election Day tally to take a 171-vote lead over runner-up Ron Kuhnel. Newman then took 43.12 percent of the ballots tallied after Election Day to push his margin of victory to 183 votes.
The outcome of the Bergel-Newman race remains too close to call, but Crnich said she’s hopeful the county will release a post-election update tomorrow that should provide some clarity.