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Final results finally released in Citrus Heights elections

Citrus Heights city hall
File photo, Citrus Heights city hall. // CH Sentinel

Sentinel staff results–
The final results for races across Sacramento County were released Wednesday afternoon, including results in a pair of razor-close races for City Council seats in Citrus Heights.

Sacramento County election officials posted the final results just after 4 p.m. on Dec. 7, reporting a voter turnout of 56% countywide, with 484,315 ballots counted.

In Citrus Heights City Council District 5, Porsche Middleton won her election for another four-year term, by a margin of just 26 votes . Middleton accepted victory this week on social media, saying “All the ballots have been counted and I have happy to say that I WON!”

MariJane Lopez-Taff also accepted victory in the race for the City Council District 2 seat, 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 total of 3,982 votes were 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.

As previously reported, the lengthy vote count process 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.”

Another reason results aren’t known immediately on election night in close races is due to mail-in ballots being required to be counted if arriving within 7 days after the election — as long as they are postmarked by Election Day, in most cases.

Haynes shared the following data with The Sentinel, showing about 43,500 ballots were received after Nov. 8:

  • Nov. 9: 38,131
  • Nov. 10: 2,950
  • Nov. 11: 400
  • Nov. 12: 0
  • Nov. 14: 1,792
  • Nov. 15: 122
  • Nov. 16: 10
  • Nov. 17: 70
  • Nov. 18: 36
  • Nov. 21: 54

In an email Wednesday, Haynes said the county had received “many ballots that were invalid because of no/late postmark or after the 7 days.” She said those ballots are marked “challenged/too late,” and are then run through a sorter machine “to alert the voter it isn’t valid and archived.”

According to the California Secretary of State’s website, ballots can be counted if received without a postmark, as long as they are dated on or before Election Day. Haynes said such a situation “rarely comes up,” but elections officials have a process to verify when a piece of mail was processed at USPS.

“[T]echnically if a ballot comes back *without* a postmark, we have a barcode scanner we use to scan the fluorescent barcode the USPS mail sorter sprays on each mail piece so we are able to identify when it was processed at USPS,” said Haynes. “We use that date in lieu of the postmark in the rare instance there isn’t one.”

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