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10k ballots left to count

A sandwich board that says "Vote Here" with pink blossoms in the background.
A sign outside a polling place on Super Tuesday.

The outcome of tight races is still uncertain as the ballot count continues.

The latest election results show that not quite half the registered voters in Mendocino County cast a ballot in the primary election. 12,208 ballots have now been processed. In accordance with AB 63, a new law that mandates weekly reporting of ballot counts with a breakdown and an expected date for new results, the elections office reported Tuesday that 10,880 ballots remain to be counted. In the first district supervisor race, Madeline Cline’s commanding lead over Adam Gaska has shrunk slightly, from just under 59% early Wednesday to 56%. Gaska has inched closer, from 23% to almost 25% of the vote. And in the second district supervisor race, incumbent Maureen Mulheren has a little breathing room, with just about 52%. That’s just ahead of challenger Jacob Brown, who is still close, with 48%. The latest breakdown does not specify where the most uncounted ballots are, but on Friday, March 8, the first and the fourth districts each had over 3,000. Fort Bragg Mayor Bernie Norvell, who is almost 2,000 votes ahead of his opponent, Georgina Avila Gorman, is likely to be the next fourth district supervisor. Statewide, Chris Rogers is pulling ahead of Rusty Hicks for the Second Assembly District seat, with 21.1% over Hicks’ 17.9%. Michael Greer, the only Republican in the race, is in the expected first place position, with 27.5% of the vote. Ted Williams pulled in 7% across the district, though in Mendocino County, he is vying with Rogers for second place after Greer.

The next county results will be posted on March 21 at 4:00 pm.

Assessor Clerk Recorder Registrar of Voters Katrina Bartolomie did not appear before the Board of Supervisors at its March 12 meeting, instead submitting a written statement to CEO Darcie Antle. A printing error by a subcontractor for Integrated Voting Systems, the county’s ballot service, resulted in all Mendocino County registered voters receiving Republican ballots for one precinct in the first district. Then it came to light that all 55 voters in a Redwood Valley precinct had received ballots for the district they were in before the boundaries were redrawn after the 2020 census. The county’s elections page places the total number of voters affected by the failure to update the voter rolls at 177.

Karen Bowers, of the Mendocino Coast Democratic Club, told the board that her group wants more information about what happened. “We participated years ago in the county’s redistricting process,” she said, which took both public and private time at meetings where various possibilities were hashed out in detail during the pandemic. “Only to find out that at this point …the redistricting that was required was not inputted into the data. Now ballots are in the lurch, candidates don't know what's happening, and we are asking for accountability. We don't understand what the next plan is to fix the problem.”

Supervisor John Haschak said the same goes for supervisors.

“The public certainly has questions,” he noted. “The board probably has quite a few questions about what has gone on with the elections. I look forward to having that discussion with the (elections) department.”

Supervisor Maureen Mulheren said the county is trying to get Integrated Voting Systems to pay the costs of the misprint. “The office is keeping track of their hours and we’ll be discussing reimbursements with the vendor for additional costs.”

Assistant County Counsel Charlotte Scott said there is a code that allows the registrar of voters to go outside the ordinary government contract process to engage a vendor. Bartolomie has indicated in no uncertain terms that she likes Integrated. Supervisor Ted Williams weighed in.

“I think the board ought to take a stance before the next election that we reconsider vendors,” he said; “because if we have another failure, I don't think the public will excuse it.” He received no answer when he asked, “Did we send the right ballots to the right people in the prior election?...We just had an election, there’s a major failure, and the board has nobody to talk to.”

Bartolomie will be the guest at this month’s meeting of the Inland Mendocino Democratic Club, which will be held at 6:30 pm at Mountain Mike’s pizza in Ukiah as well as on zoom.

Local News
Sarah Reith came to Mendocino County in 2008 and worked as a reporter and freelancer, joining KZYX as a community news reporter in 2017. She became the KZYX News Director in March, 2023.