Major Election Update - The Tale of Two Mikes

by Placerville Newswire / Jun 09, 2018 / comments

[Cris Alarcon]

Many winners and losers had to wait days to find out their fate as a movement to Mail “VBM” ballots has delayed reporting on tight races.

Some Background: In the old days we went to a voting booth and voted on “election day” and those votes were counted that night and the winner was soon known.  Later we added a “mail” option for those not in town for “Election day.” Then we added “Provisional” ballots that go into a Pink envelope for further verification.  This come up in cases like I went to 1st street precinct to vote but I was on the voter rolls at 5th street, where I live. So they take my vote at 1st street, stick it in a “Provisional” envelop, and Provided I have not already voted at 5th street, my vote will get counted (if I did vote twice, my second vote will be thrown out).  Modern Voting reports on Election Night were very accurate for most of this time as most votes were counted that night and the few remaining that needed special processing accounted for less than a few percent of the total. This small number seldom changed anything other than razor-thin races.

But then the State decided to save some money.  It turns out it is much less costly to count Mailed votes than in person votes, but more time-consuming…  Training, renting space, setting-up, staffing of thousands of Polling Places every election is very costly.  In an effort to save money the State has pushed Mailing ballots over Polling Place voting. They are even talking about eliminating all vote-in-person and going to 100% Mail ballots by 2020!  

The votes get counted, but the timing has changed and the traditional way we report races may need to change to better reflect reality.  Recent elections had 80-90% of votes counted and reported late election night. But as the numbers of VBM ballots dramatically increased, the processing time for those correspondingly increased.  That results in an Election night Final Report that only reported just over half of all votes, but was not clear that so many ballots were still uncounted or reported. With just half the vote counted, many races were undetermined and candidates had to wait in a limbo that is essentially a Hell-on-Earth for enough votes to get counted to know their election fate.

The Process -- The first round of vote counts comes just after the Polls close.  That is the vote totals from Mailed ballots that came early and had already been counted, but held secret until the Polls closed.  At the end of the night, after every Polling Precinct had wrapped up everything and given the “verified” ballots to the Elections department (that has a machine that counts the votes fast.  Those vote in-person votes are counted that night and added to the already announced numbers for the “Election Night Final Report.” That leaves a pile of yet-to-be-processed Mailed ballots.  Those get verified and counted as fast as possible over the next few days. That is the major update that the Election Department released last night. That count total includes over 90% of all votes cast.

Total Voters in County = 115,431

Election Night Final Report: Ballots Cast = 34,948, 30.28% of voters.

Day after election Elections Department reported that 23,000 ballots remain to be counted.

Major Update (6/8 at 5pm): Counted Ballots Cast = 47,588, or 41.23% of voters.

Approximate balance of uncounted ballots = 10,360 [9% of voters.  Some of these will be invalid]

Now, enough foreplay, who won?

In our local races the DA, the Auditor, and 2 Supervisorial Districts were in play locally.  Of those races, Mike Owen and Mike Ranalli had the most anxious days waiting for the count.

DA -  The DA, Vern Peirson is a popular DA in a Law-and-Order culture, but he has built up significant “negatives” in his tenure here and is seriously challenged by even weak challengers.  In this cycle he was challenged by a DA Office insider, Kelliher. Even though Kelliher is a prosecutor in the DA’s office with a great work record, she is liberal and the law enforcement community united against her as being “too soft on criminals.”  Initially Vern had a 57% advantage over Kelliher but that dropped to just 56.55% on election night and to 56.39% on this major update. That leaves about 5,360 votes to make them even and only about 10,000 votes left to count. Keliher would have to win over 75% of uncounted ballots, and that is a statistical impossibility when taking into account the trend for 90% of the votes counted.  

We declare Vern Pierson re-elected as DA of EDC.


Auditor/Controller -- EDC’s current Auditor/Controller Joe Harn also has many “negatives” and was very seriously challenged by local business owner Mike Owen.  This race was a nail biter and even now, the outcome {could} change. Joe is often called the 6th Supervisor and the main criticism is that he uses finances to make policy, even though that is not the Auditor’s job.  Going for Joe is that he is an entrenched and cagey politician and is experienced and well financed. His challenger is a political neophyte and Joe is the only candidate Mike has ever run against. Mike was recruited to run by local Fire and Law Enforcement agents concerned over Joe’s politicizing of their budgets.  When the first 21% of votes were counted, Joe had an advantage of 55% but by the end of the night that had dropped to 53.2% and as of the major update that is down to 52.61%. There is a difference of 2,243 votes and about 10,000 votes left to be counted. In order for Owen to overtake Harn’s advantage he would have to win ⅔ of the remaining votes.  If the current trend continues, it is statistically impossible to for Owen to win although the race is expected to tighten even more as the last votes are counted.

We declare Joe Harn to be re-elected as Auditor/Controller of EDC


County Supervisor, 4th District

Sitting Supervisor MICHAEL RANALLI went from ecstasy to agony in the last couple of day, but new hope springs for Lori Parlin.  Three people ran for this seat and if one gets more than 50%, they win, but if none get over 50% then the top two go to run-off election in November.  On Election night Mike won the race and campaigning was over with the magic threshold of 50% + 1 to win outright with 50.03%. That joy was short lived.  Soon the 50%+ lead evaporated and the latest number being 49.60% of the votes. Mike has been getting about 50% of the votes and there are about 2,000 votes in this race still to be counted.  A few votes favoring Mike will out him back over the 50%+1 threshold to win outright, but if he does not, we will see a second chance for Lori as that race will continue until a final vote between the two determines the winner.

We declare this race - TOO CLOSE TO CALL


County Supervisor, 5th District

Sitting Supervisor SUE NOVASEL a business magnet is going to a run-off election in November against local personality "Ski Bum" KENNY CURTZWILER.  Four people ran for this seat and no one got more than 50%, so the top two go to run-off election in November. This race is a true reflection of the dual nature of tahoe as a far-right business person runs against a far-left recreational advocate.  She is expected to outspend Kenny, but he is expected to gain a lot of grass-roots support. Where it will end up in November is a guess at best, but it is sure to be an interesting race

We declare this race - GOING TO RUN-OFF ELECTION