Thadeus Greenson is calling it a “slim chance,” and he’s probably right. But given the number of yet-to-be-counted votes, I’m more hopeful than I was when I went to sleep last night!
Humboldt County Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich told the Journal early this morning that some 471 vote by mail ballots were dropped off on Election Day at Eureka polling locations, where another 236 provisional ballots were cast. Now, assuming all those mail-in ballots are actually from Eureka voters and that all those provisional ballots prove valid — and that none of those voters left the Ward 3 contest blank — that means at least 707 votes remain uncounted in the race. Additionally, Crnich said there could be another 1,000 or so vote by mail ballots that arrived at the county elections office Monday and Tuesday that have yet to be sorted.
Let’s start with the 707. If Bergel is to make up the 104-vote gap, she would need to win 406 of those votes. That would be 57.4 percent. She pulled only 42.87 percent of the vote on the mail-in ballots that have already been counted and 54.13 at the polls on Election Day, so that seems a tall order.
But let’s factor in those other potential 1,000 or so ballots. If those ballots are representative of the county’s overall registration numbers, then about 19 percent would come from Eureka voters, or about 190 ballots. If we add those to the 707 we just discussed, we get 897 ballots. To make up 104 votes in that scenario, Bergel would have to pull 55.85 percent of the vote.
Basically, in order to pull this thing out without some statistical anomaly in the voting patterns — or to win while pulling the same 54.13 percent of the vote she got at the polls — Bergel would need there to be more than 1,200 ballots outstanding in the race. That seems unlikely.
But consider this: Four years ago, when Newman edged out Ron Kuhnel to take the seat, 1,825 votes showed up in the final tally that weren’t recorded in the final Election Night summary. But before Bergel supporters get too hopeful, it should be made clear that those numbers are from an election that saw 66 percent turnout in Humboldt County. The preliminary tallies Tuesday show just 39 percent of those registered casting ballots.
In past Eureka elections, the late absentee ballots tend to be less conservative. Older retired voters tend to get their ballots in the mail within days if not hours of receipt, and they tend to be the more conservative. And late absentees are sometimes the result of target GOTV efforts. And maybe liberals are just more prone to procrastination. In any case, the voting patterns of late absentees tend to more closely match the election day votes.
But as he notes, even the 54.13 percent rate requires over 1200 additional ballots – probably not the case. And it’s probably going to be more like somewhere between 700 and 800 votes counted – obviously not all the provisionals will be deemed legit, and people from the outer areas of the county may have dropped their absentees off in Eureka – you can bring an absentee ballot to any polling place in the county. But there is room for hope!
Addendum: As noted by Jon in the thread and the update to the NCJ article linked above, the number of ballots yet to be counted could exceed 1300, which opens up the possibility of a Bergel win. It’s probably going get a lot closer!