MONTESANO — The Ocean Shores mayoral race was finally decided on Tuesday in favor of incumbent Crystal Dingler after a six-hour manual recount process that didn’t go according to plan.
Despite a delay caused by misplaced ballots, both Dingler and challenger and Susan Conniry who were present to observe the recount were satisfied that the final count, 1,607 to 1,604 — the same as last week’s machine count — was fair and correct.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve for four more years,” Dingler said.
Ocean Shores Councilwoman Conniry said the close race and 62.38% voter turnout in Ocean Shores showed voters were “united in their interest and engagement with the election process.”
The election was a rematch from four years ago when Dingler won. Conniry won a four-way primary in August and she was leading on Election Day when the initial votes were counted. As more mail-in ballots came in, Dingler took the lead.
In preparation for the recount, Ocean Shores ballots were removed from the county’s sealed boxes of ballots on Monday. During that process, some ballots were accidentally put back into the boxes that were then resealed. The mistake was discovered when the number of ballots present after the manual recount was short of last week’s machine count total.
During the recount, four election workers including Elections Administrator Scott Turnbull, separated ballots into three piles, votes for Dingler, votes for Conniry and other ballots that were judged to be write-ins or votes for neither candidate. The ballots were double-checked and then triple-checked when officials counted them into batches of 50 to make the final count easier and less error prone.
After the first recount, there were 47 votes from the machine count, 17 for Dingler and 30 for Conniry, that were unaccounted for. At that point, County Auditor Joe MacLean oversaw a process in which every ballot for the whole county was recounted box by box until the misplaced ballots were found. Dingler was declared the official winner at about 3:30 p.m.
While the recount was delayed by human error, both candidates agreed that they were satisfied with the process. “They’re doing their best, ” Dingler said. Conniry said she was glad she could be there so she can tell her supporters that the process was fair and transparent. The councilwoman added it was a relief after the long wait to finally know which hat she’ll be wearing when the council and mayor get back to work.