Over 1,200 votes still uncounted in South Lake Tahoe election; results remain unofficial
Though most are ready to put the drama of election season behind them, there is one nagging factor that could throw a wrench in that plan — there are still 1,262 uncounted ballots in South Lake Tahoe.
“Within the city limits we have 839 vote-by-mail ballots and 423 provisional ballots that have yet to be processed,” said Bill Schultz, recorder-clerk and registrar of voters for El Dorado County, on Nov. 14.
“A provisional ballot is when someone comes in to vote and is not on the roster, but swears they’ve registered. We let them vote and now we have to go through and vet that,” explained Schultz.
Countywide the number of unprocessed votes totals over 24,000 — 3,000 of which are provisional ballots.
Normally there are only 300 to 400 provisional ballots, according to Schultz, and they can take anywhere from 10-15 minutes each to process.
“We have never ever had that many provisionals,” said Schultz.
So what effect could these uncounted votes have on the South Lake Tahoe election results?
“That’s hard to say. None of the races are really, really close so 1,262 ballots get split among everything. It’s hard to say,” said Schultz, though he admitted that it’s “always a possibility” that the results could change.
“I think that’s probably happened once or twice in the smaller [districts],” noted Schultz.
Though more than just a few votes separated the two South Lake Tahoe city council front-runners from the remaining eight candidates, it was still a close election by all accounts.
In the South Lake Tahoe city council race, Brooke Laine took the lead with 1,887 votes, or 22.32 percent, to earn a seat on the city council — unofficially.
Jason Collin was next in line with 1,413 votes, or 16.71 percent, and was deemed the second new city councilmember — again, unofficially.
Tamara Wallace, however, was not far behind with 1,359 votes, or 16.08 percent. That’s a difference of just 54 votes between Collin and Wallace.
Next in line, JoAnn Conner received 1,012 votes, or 11.97 percent of votes, trailed by Ted Long, who earned 968 votes, or 11.45 percent.
The remaining five candidates received between 6 and 2 percent of the vote each.
Schultz said there are a couple of reasons for the delay in vote counting, and it starts with the required election process.
County officials began counting vote-by-mail ballots 10 days prior to Election Day, and continued until 7 p.m. on Nov. 8.
“We have to shut down the vote-by-mail counting system and switch over to the system that counts the permanent ballots. It’s a process that everybody has to follow,” said Schultz.
“We didn’t leave until 2:30 or 3 a.m.”
There were 86,040 vote-by-mail ballots issued countywide, which is 73.85 percent of all voters.
Though counting continued over the following days, the process was delayed due to the Veterans Day holiday, and will again be delayed by two mandated days off for Thanksgiving.
Across El Dorado County, there are 116,513 registered voters — a new record for the county, said Schultz.
At present, Schultz estimates voter turnout to be around 84 percent.
An update on the South Lake Tahoe vote count is expected out on Friday, Nov. 18. The official election results will likely not be out until after Thanksgiving.
The oath of office for the newly elected councilmembers does not take place until the council meeting on Dec. 13.