Election meltdown | TheUnion.com

Election meltdown

John HartAt the Madelyn Helling Nevada County Library, county employee Steve Humes runs a computer with the election results as the District 5 Supervisor and board chairwoman Barbara Green looks over his shoulder.
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Lorraine Jewett-Burdick said she anticipated trouble, even double trouble, as Tuesday’s elections approached. As the final results trickled in, the Nevada County clerk-recorder said everything was going pretty much as planned.

“Everything’s just taking twice as long, which isn’t fun if you’ve been here since five in the morning. And there’s no way to hurry,” she said.

The reason: Ballot counters were tabulating two ballot sheets, rather than one, for every voter – the front and back of one sheet, and the front of the second sheet. That meant twice as many runs through the automated vote counter.

Compounding the problem was that more than 1,200 voters dropped their absentee ballots at the polls Tuesday, meaning those votes – along with more than 800 others — will have to wait until today to be verified.

Because of the late absentee ballots, said Jewett-Burdick, the Bruce Conklin-Drew Bedwell race in supervisorial District 3 “is too close to call.” However, she said it appeared that Robin Sutherland had captured District 4, and that Measure D would be defeated.

The last time voters had filled in two sheets was 1994, according to Jewett-Burdick, who has held the office for four years.

Bleary-eyed at 10:40 p.m., she perked up after learning the last ballot box, from Truckee, arrived at the Elections Office in Nevada City. In past elections, results from the eastern county arrived by 9:30 p.m.

“We got Truckee in!” she said, moving quickly down the hallway in her customary Western wear.

“Wow!” a volunteer said.

As midnight passed, Jewett-Burdick was still hoping to reach her goal of getting all the votes counted by 12:30 a.m. today. In all, the office processed 94 different ballots.

But not all were elated outside election headquarters.

“We’ve been here 30 years, and this is the worst (delay) I’ve ever seen,” said Geeta Dardick, wife of former county supervisor Sam Dardick and a member of Taxpayers Against Measure D.

“I’m certainly disappointed, (but) I’m sure there certainly is a good reason for (the delay),” said Grass Valley City Council candidate Patti Ingram, the city’s vice mayor.

Ingram, who was the top vote-getter as of 11:30 p.m., went home after meeting friends and relatives at the Holbrooke Hotel in Grass Valley.

Grass Valley Mayor Linda Stevens, who stopped by the hotel, said she didn’t know what was going on.

“I’m the mayor,” she said. “I have nothing to do with counting votes.”

Standing nearby, Lisa Swarthout, one of three challengers vying for two seats on the Grass Valley City Council this year, had no explanation for the delay. “I haven’t a clue,” she said.

Late election results made the Fourth District supervisorial race a nail-biter for candidates who waited, waited, and waited.

With no results to view, 4th District Supervisor Elizabeth Martin’s supporters hugged her as she watched a computer projection screen at the Miners Foundry.

At 10:45 p.m., with only two precincts in, it was too early to make any judgments about the race, said Martin, the incumbent.

“I think I’ve run a great campaign, and I’m going to go dance until I hear the final results,” said Martin.

Her challenger, Sutherland, also said it was too early in the counting to make a call on who would win or lose, though she was optimistic about her lead in the early count.

“I’ve run a good, clean campaign and I feel good about it,” said Sutherland, who was at a party Tuesday night at her campaign consultant’s house.

In the District 3 supervisorial race, Conklin, the incumbent, and Bedwell went to bed wondering who would win.

“This is so close it’s anyone’s guess how it will shake out,” Bedwell said.

Just after midnight, he led Conklin by 55 votes with 22 of 24 precincts reporting.

But with election returns coming in at a snail’s pace, Conklin said he had no idea if the winner of the race would be determined Tuesday night.

“I guess I’ll have to find out in the morning when I read the newspaper,” he said.

– The Union reporters Kerana Todorov, David Mirhadi, Kevin Wiser and John Dickey, and Editor Richard Somerville contributed to this story

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