Thurston County Auditor’s Office staff launched a machine recount of ballots Wednesday in the Port of Olympia Commission District 3 contest between E.J. Zita and Jerry Farmer.
Following last month’s general election, in which Farmer led Zita on election night, Zita eventually picked up enough votes in subsequent counts to surpass Farmer by 227 votes. Because of that narrow lead, a machine recount was required by law.
Elections staff began tabulating 60,872 ballots, the total ballot count when the vote was certified Nov. 24. Staff expected to complete most of the recount Wednesday. Unofficial results are expected Thursday (Dec. 3) with the recount results set to be certified Friday morning.
After counting ballots from 177 precincts — the county has 282 — there was no change in the certified results, Thurston County Auditor Mary Hall said Wednesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Hall swore in Zita last week because Zita is completing the four-year unexpired term of former Commissioner Sue Gunn, who resigned. Because Zita is filling an unexpired term, she goes to work immediately, Hall said.
That also applies to Tenino Mayor Wayne Fournier, who was sworn in last week, and Tenino School Board member Kevin Feltus, who is set to be sworn in this week, Hall said. Other candidates who are set to begin new terms will be sworn in Dec. 29, she added.
If Zita’s win is upheld by the recount, she will serve two years on the commission before she will have to decide whether to run again in 2017. If Farmer should pull ahead following the recount, the race results will be recertified, Farmer will be sworn in, and then the process likely would result in a hand recount, Hall said.
Farmer, co-owner of KRXY-FM, said Wednesday that he will wait for the recount results before deciding to concede.
“I feel like this process has to play out,” he said.
Voter turnout for the general election was 37 percent, which was disappointing, Farmer said, because local elections are important.
“These are the offices that have a direct influence on your life,” he said.
More voter education might be needed, too, he said.
He said he heard from one person who congratulated him for his election night victory, and from another person who said they didn’t vote for him because they don’t live in District 3. Port of Olympia Commission seats are divided into three districts. But vote-by-district rules are in effect only for primaries; the general election is a countywide vote.