WALLA WALLA - Port of Walla Walla Commissioner Mike Fredrickson held his lead over challenger Barlow Corkrum today in a surprising new ballot update that resulted in no change whatsoever in the distance between the two candidates.
An automatic recount appears nearly certain. State law calls for such a recount if the margin between the candidates is less than 0.5 percent of the total votes cast.
In this election, 15,960 votes have been counted, according to the county Elections Office website. County Auditor Karen Martin said today more than 100 votes remain to be counted, which would peg the cutoff number at 80 or 81.
Fredrickson maintained a 49-vote lead over Corkrum after the latest wave of ballots were counted this afternoon, Martin said. More than 300 ballots were counted today. The latest results gave Fredrickson 6,800 votes - or 50.18 percent - to Corkrum's 6,751 - or 49.82 percent.
Martin said more than 100 questionable ballots remain but will need review by the county's Canvassing Board before they can be counted. Election results are slated for certification Nov. 29. The Canvassing Board will meet that night.
Even if all of the remaining ballots are counted, the outcome is not likely to change, Martin said.
Nevertheless, the latest count continued to surprise elections officials who have watched results of the contentious race for the Port Commission's District 2 seat evolve from merely close to neck-and-neck.
The initial Election Day results posted just after 8 p.m. showed Fredrickson ahead of Corkrum by 159 votes. Thousands remained to be counted at the time. Fredrickson's lead was cut to 49 votes after the next tally of ballots last Thursday. Today's count stumped elections officials, who expected to see the distance between the two candidates change at least a little.
Martin said exact numbers to trigger the recount will be based, in part, on the results of the Canvassing Board's efforts. She said the Elections Office has sent out letters to voters with questionable ballots. The outstanding ballots have problems such as signatures that need to be verified.
Martin said those who have received the letters have until the certification to respond. In the three-day period leading up to the Canvassing Board's meeting, officials will attempt to contact voters who haven't responded by telephone.
The Canvassing Board, which includes Martin, the prosecuting attorney and a representative of the Walla Walla County Commission, will review the remaining questionable ballots in an attempt to verify signatures.