Benton board to handle remaining 1,321 ballots

KENNEWICK -- A special meeting of the Benton County Canvassing Board is planned Friday morning to help finish counting 1,321 remaining ballots and settle the outcome of a district court judicial race.

Auditor Brenda Chilton said she is confident the canvassing board will declare the ballots are eligible to be counted.

On Wednesday, just seven votes separated judicial candidates Dan Kathren and Alex Ekstrom, with Kathren in the lead.

Kathren has 24,451 votes to Ekstrom's 24,444.

The ballots have been held up because of a mistake that could have misidentified them during the collecting of ballots at drop boxes in Richland and Benton City on election day.

Chilton expects to begin counting the ballots as soon as the canvassing board releases them.

There also are 190 ballots remaining that are in challenged status because of problems with voters signing the envelopes.

Those voters have been advised by mail to correct their mistakes by contacting the auditor's office by 5 p.m. Nov. 22.

Chilton said military and overseas ballots will continue to be received and processed through Nov. 23, when the canvassing board will have its final meeting before certifying the election results.

Franklin County

PASCO -- In Franklin County, the gap in the close race for Franklin County auditor widened slightly after Wednesday's count.

Republican Matt Beaton is now ahead by 159 votes.

That's the largest lead Beaton has had over Democrat Zona Lenhart in the race so far, and the first time his lead has been more than the estimated number of ballots left to count.

Beaton, a real estate appraiser, had 8,484 votes, or a little more than 50 percent, as of Wednesday's count. Lenhart, the 21-year incumbent, had 8,325, or a little more than 49 percent.

Beaton's lead is equal to almost 1 percent of the votes, which means the race is not within the 0.5 percent difference that triggers a mandatory recount.

The county auditor's office estimates that 50 ballots remain to be counted. However, that number fluctuates as military votes come in and as ballots postmarked by election day that were delayed in the mail arrive.

The next count is scheduled for at 5 p.m. Nov. 22.

Results will be certified Nov. 23, and by the state on Dec. 2.