Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, November 16, 2007

"Young Pullman upstart has narrowly ousted incumbent; Final count and election certification will be Nov. 27"

From yesterday's Lewiston Tribune:
Barring an unlikely reversal from a recount or a slew of late-arriving ballots, 25-year-old Nathan Weller looks like he will unseat Pullman Ward 2 City Councilor Al Sorensen.

Weller added 14 votes to his total after the latest mail-in ballots were counted Wednesday. Sorensen, 46, gained 11 votes, leaving him 10 votes behind his young challenger, according to numbers released by the Whitman County Auditor's Office.

Weller now has 273 votes, compared to Sorensen's 263. The next count will be Nov. 27, when the election results will be certified, said county elections supervisor Debbie Hooper.

The percentage margin between the two candidates is now 1.86 percent, well above the 0.5 percent margin required for a mandatory recount. A total of 536 Ward 2 ballots have now been counted, approximately 26 percent of the ward's active registered voters, according to the auditor's office.

County-wide turnout stood at 54 percent, after 383 ballots were added Wednesday. There are about 100 ballots left to be counted, according to the county's Web site. Hooper said she didn't know how many might be from Ward 2, or how many more might arrive in the mail before Nov. 27. Ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 6, Election Day, to be counted.

"It's not over until they certify the election," Sorensen said. "There are still votes out there. It's still pretty close."

Sorensen said he will investigate the procedures to request a manual recount, but hasn't yet decided if he will ask for one if the results don't change.

According to state election law, a citizen who requests a recount must pay a per-ballot charge for a recount if the results don't change. If the results are reversed after a recount, the citizen or group making the request isn't charged.

When asked about a potential recount, Weller said the new numbers put the onus on Sorensen.

"That falls within the realm of what Al wants to do," said Weller, an employee at Schweitzer Engineering in Pullman.

He added that he was thankful to all the Ward 2 residents who voted, no matter which candidate they chose. But he wasn't ready to declare victory.

"Things can always change," Weller said. "Until we have that (result) officially, it's really difficult for me to say that I have won. It's so, so close."

He did say he was satisfied with the race he ran with help from his family and friends. "We ran a good campaign, and we achieved exactly what we wanted to."

Weller said he wasn't sure if Sorensen underestimated his challenge, but noted that Sorensen is a busy man with an insurance company to run, and might not have had as much time to campaign as he did.

And while the result, while unofficial, may be a surprise to some Pullman residents, Weller sounded confident about his prospects for a four-year term on the council.

"I've always been ready to serve," he said. "My whole life, I've wanted to serve."

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