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Semi-final vote count shows two winners in close Citrus Heights council races

Porsche Middleton, top left, and MariJane Lopez-Taff, bottom right, both received the top number of votes in their races for Citrus Heights City Council, according to semi-final numbers released Dec. 6, 2022.

Sentinel staff report–
With election officials now reporting zero ballots remaining to be counted, Mayor Porsche Middleton and newcomer MariJane Lopez-Taff have won the most votes in a pair of razor-close races for Citrus Heights City Council.

Sacramento County election officials posted the latest results just after 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 6, showing “semi-final” vote numbers and reporting no ballots remaining to be counted. Middleton immediately posted on social media on Tuesday, saying “All the ballots have been counted and I have happy to say that I WON!”

Lopez-Taff also accepted victory in the race for City Council District 2, telling The Sentinel in an email, “I am proud of the work of my campaign team and humbled by the confidence of those who voted for me. Thank you! I look forward to serving you!”

Lopez-Taff squeezed out her win with less than half-a-percentage point ahead of contender Michael Nishimura. A difference of just 20 votes separated the two, out of 4,398 votes cast in the race.

In District 5, Middleton won with just over half-a-percentage point ahead of contender Natalee Price. A difference of just 26 votes separated the two, out of 3,982 votes cast in the race.

In the race for District 4, Jayna Karpinski-Costa maintained her strong lead and won re-election with just over 49% of the vote in the three-way race.

The lengthy vote count prompted some criticism from residents, including Councilman Bret Daniels who said in a Facebook comment on Monday: “It is unconscionable that in 2022 and after numerous election debacles that we do not know who won an election more than three weeks after voting has concluded.”

County spokeswoman Janna Haynes said in an email that the elections office had received criticism for not hiring more staff to process ballots faster and that it should operate 24/7 until all votes are counted. She said staffing constraints and a limited number of machines and tabulators cause the process to bottleneck when “massive numbers” are received during a short window.

“[W]hile we do hire seasonal staff, they are overseen by the full time permanent manager that supervises that particular process. There is only 1 of each,” said Haynes, regarding comments favoring around-the-clock counting. “It’s critical that all processes are overseen by an experienced manager, but those people cannot personally work 24/7.”

According to a revised timeline posted by the county, a final vote report will be issued Wednesday, Dec. 7, by 4 p.m. An original timeline listed Dec. 8 as the date for the final report.

New council members are slated to be sworn in this week, during the Dec. 8 City Council meeting.

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