Election day has come and gone, but the counting of ballots will be going on for days as county clerks across the Valley deal with thousands of provisional and late-arriving absentee ballots.
Those ballots not only have the potential to affect the outcomes of some tight races; they will also bear on the overall figures for voter turnout in Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties.
In Fresno County, County Clerk Brandi Orth said her office has about 40,000 late absentee ballots to process, as well as about 15,000 provisional ballots. Provisional ballots are those cast at polling places Tuesday by people whose names weren’t on the rolls of registered voters at that precinct. But complicating the count is a new law that says if a vote-by-mail ballot is postmarked by the day of the election and received by the elections office within three days, it is eligible to be counted. Under the old rules, those absentee ballots had to be received by the election date to be tallied.
“So we’ll be picking up ballots in the mail on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to be counted,” Orth said. Her next report of updated results will come Friday.
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Fresno County’s initial turnout, between early-returned absentee ballots and Tuesday voting, was reported at less than 28 percent. Of the county’s 418,576 registered voters, 116,753 either showed up at polling places Tuesday or returned their absentee ballots before the election.
If all of the provisional and absentee ballots in Fresno County are validated, they would drive the overall turnout up to 41 percent or higher.
Elsewhere across the Valley, election-day and early-absentee turnout ranged from less than 27 percent in Tulare County to nearly 40 percent in Madera County. But as in Fresno County, the volume of provisional and absentee ballots means those turnout numbers will rise by the time they are all counted.
Kings County Clerk-Registar of Voters Kristine Lee said her office received 373 absentee ballots in the mail on Wednesday and said more were expected on Thursday and Friday. “By Friday, we should have good, solid numbers to report,” she said. Kings County also has 657 provisionals to process, “and we won’t know if those will count or not” until they are checked against official voter registration rolls.
At the Madera County elections office, representatives said they don’t expect to know how many absentees and provisionals they’ll have to process until Thursday afternoon. And in Tulare County, elections officers reported that they have 11,175 vote-by-mail ballots to count, as well as 4,125 provisional ballots.
In Fresno, a lively race for mayor didn’t translate to high election turnout. The overall turnout in the city was reported at about 26 percent, pending absentee and provisional ballots. In northeast Fresno, where the ballot featured the city’s only contested City Council race, turnout in District 6 was about 35 percent before late ballots are counted.
Among the races potentially hanging in the balance are:
▪ Fresno City Council District 6, where Garry Bredefeld came out of election night at barely over 50 percent of the votes – a threshold that would avoid a November runoff with second-place finisher Jeremy Pearce.
▪ The race for second place and a spot in the November general election for the 26th Assembly District. Across the district, which covers all of Inyo County and parts of Tulare and Kern counties, Democrat Ruben Macareno of Visalia held a slim 583-vote lead over Republican Rudy Mendoza for the opportunity to unseat Republican incumbent Devin Mathis.
▪ The opportunity to challenge Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, in the 21st Congressional District. Valadao was easily the top vote-getter Tuesday, leaving Democrats Daniel Parra of Fowler and Emilio Huerta of Bakersfield to battle for the second general election spot. After Tuesday’s results, Parra was ahead of Huerta by only 476 votes across the district, which includes all of Kings County and parts of Fresno, Kern and Tulare counties.
▪ Kings County’s Measure K, a proposal to tack an extra quarter-cent onto sales taxes in the county to help pay for police and fire services. As of Wednesday morning, the measure was 53 votes shy of the two-thirds majority required to pass.