Election workers Debbie Cain, left, and Kathy Schreiner, both of Sequim, sort through untabulated ballots Friday at the Clallam County Courthouse in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Election workers Debbie Cain, left, and Kathy Schreiner, both of Sequim, sort through untabulated ballots Friday at the Clallam County Courthouse in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Daily ballot counts required with larger population

PORT ANGELES — There may be no more waiting for three days for Clallam County election returns beginning in 2019 after Auditor Shoona Riggs learned last week that the county’s population met a threshold in 2017 that requires daily counts under state law.

Ballots must be counted on a daily basis in counties of over 75,000 population, according to RCW 28A.60.160.

Ballots must be counted at least every third day in counties with under 75,000 population.

Clallam County’s population has increased to 75,474, according to a 2017 Census Bureau estimate.

The population was 74,098 in 2016.

Riggs, re-elected Tuesday without opposition, said Thursday she had asked the Secretary of State’s Office — she thought it may have been within the last year — whether Clallam had hit the 75,000-population threshold.

Riggs was told, “you haven’t quite hit that threshold yet,” she said.

“I know we are super close,” Riggs said late Thursday afternoon.

She said she did not know the population now exceeds 75,000 until learning of it from Peninsula Daily News.

“I think we are close enough that we can do daily counts.

“We will be shooting for daily reporting.

“That’s my goal.”

She said that could come as early as Feb. 12 if any measures are on the special election ballot.

Riggs’ said she and past auditors’ election staffs have waited to make their second count of returns after Election Night on the Friday after the election, which leaves some races in limbo for days.

“I know we’ve got a couple of really close [races],” she said.

For example, John Black had a four-vote lead over Erik Rohrer in the race for West End District Court 2 judge after Tuesday’s count. He extended that lead to 15 votes in Friday’s count. A third count is planned Tuesday.

Riggs said with a flood of ballots, a new staff and new system, she was waiting until Friday to begin counting an estimated 16,000 ballots received Saturday-Friday and probably would not finish counting those ballots until Tuesday.

Ballots received by the Auditor’s Office up to Friday, Nov. 2, were counted on Tuesday, election night, Riggs said Thursday.

“I’m going as fast as I can,” she said.

Jefferson County Election Coordinator Betty Johnson stopped processing ballots in preparation for counting them and counted what they had Wednesday afternoon because of a close Public Utility District race between candidates Daniel Toepper and Tom Brotherton.

“We felt it was important to the candidates and the public,” Johnson said.

Toepper was ahead of Brotherton by five votes as of Election Night.

“That race was too close.

“The people want to know what’s going on.”

After Wednesday’s count, Toepper was ahead by 236 votes. After Friday’s count, he was ahead by 302 votes.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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