The next official count in the neck-and neck Ocean Shores mayoral race is set to be released at 5 p.m. Thursday, according to the election results page on the Grays Harbor County website. And with mailed ballots still trickling in, the race is anything but decided.
The battle tightened up even further with the release of ballot tabulations last Friday, showing incumbent mayor Crystal Dingler overtaking challenger Susan Conniry to gain a 17-vote lead, 1,523 – 1,506. Although final figures on turnout have not yet been tabulated, it is already known that turnout in Ocean Shores was more than 50% for the mayor’s race.
Ballot status information from the Washington Secretary of State’s website also shows there may have been as many as 40 Ocean Shores ballots that were rejected as unsigned, with non-matching signatures, or on hold for unspecified reasons. The final ballot count is to be certified by the County Auditor’s office by Nov. 26 and by the Washington Secretary of State’s office by Dec. 5.
State law specifies that “If the voter neglects to sign the ballot declaration, the auditor shall notify the voter by first-class mail and advise the voter of the correct procedures for completing the unsigned declaration.” The same process is used “If the handwriting of the signature on a ballot declaration is not the same as the handwriting of the signature on the registration file.” For rejected ballots that have not been resolved, “the auditor shall attempt to notify the voter by telephone, using the voter registration record information” (RCW 29A.60.165). Some Ocean Shores voters whose ballots were rejected have already received the required notification.
The ballot numbers to be released Thursday should include any rejected ballots that have been resolved and could go a long way toward determining the significance of any remaining rejected ballots.
The new numbers Thursday also will indicate whether the race is close enough to trigger an automatic recount. If the difference between the two candidates is less than one half of 1% of the total ballots cast in that race, a machine recount is mandated. A hand recount is required if the difference is less than one quarter of 1%. With 3,052 mayoral votes counted as of last Friday, the 17-vote difference was just above the automatic machine recount threshold at 0.557 of 1%.
Of course, candidates and their supporters can pay for a recount regardless of the percentage difference in the vote. Machine recounts cost 15 cents per vote and hand recounts are 25 cents per vote.
Asked to comment Friday afternoon, Dingler quickly replied that while she is “pleased, a little more so than last time,” (she trailed by 30 votes in the first tabulation that was released on election night, Nov. 5), “I don’t know that this is any more final than the other.”
Conniry said, “It’s an interesting turn, but we remain optimistic. There are still more votes out there, many that were rejected that may be recovered, and we’re still incredibly close. It’s quite a roller coaster!”