In Benton judge race, 1 vote counts big

The race for Benton County District Court Judge seat 3 became a squeaker as more votes were counted Tuesday, with Dan Kathren leading Alex Ekstrom by just one vote.

The tally showed Kathren with 24,443 votes while Ekstrom held 24,442.

The dead heat will remain until Monday, when another 1,321 ballots will be counted, said county Auditor Brenda Chilton.

The election tally after counting 62,488 ballots in Benton County shows a 70.6 percent voter turnout, with nearly 1,500 ballots remaining to be counted.

The final batch of ballots can't be counted until a special meeting of the county's canvassing board, which must review them.

Chilton said the board, which includes county Commission Chairman Jim Beaver and someone from both the auditor's office and the prosecuting attorney's office, cannot meet until the meeting is announced through a posted public notice.

Chilton said the final ballots to be counted include those that had problems while being processed by elections staff.

She said 1,004 ballots were picked up at one of the county's voter drop boxes, but a clerical mistake resulted in that batch of ballots being miscoded. The canvassing board will have to sort out the mistake.

Another 317 ballots are being held for the canvassing board review because a handcount of those ballots was off by one compared with a count of the envelopes in which they were mailed.

"Most likely a husband and wife put their two ballots in the same envelope for mailing," Chilton said.

But even after those 1,321 ballots are counted Monday, there could be up to 200 more to be tallied Nov. 22, she said.

Those include Benton County ballots that had other problems, such as signature discrepancies, were not signed or had late postmarks.

Chilton said voters who cast those ballots have been notified they have until Nov. 22 to provide a correct signature or correct the problem. Late-postmarked ballots will not be counted, she said.

The county's election results are scheduled to be certified by the canvassing board Nov. 23.

Tuesday's count showed 55.5 percent support for the measure to move the county seat from Prosser to Kennewick, with 44.5 percent opposed.

The measure needed 60 percent to pass.

The coroner's race had John Hansens with 51.2 percent and Alberta Redwing with 48.8 percent. Redwing trails by 1,178 votes.

-- John Trumbo: 582-1529; jtrumbo@tricityherald.com