Tight races mark historic election

High turnout, new protocols, possibility of legal challenges complicate clear outcomes

Tight races mark historic electionBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

A record-high turnout of voters reported on the national scale, coupled with newly implemented election protocols meant to reduce outbreaks during the pandemic, have sowed uncertainty for a number of ballot items from Tuesday’s General Election.

For the first time since 2000, Americans awoke the day after elections still uncertain about who won. While Democratic candidate Joe Biden was heavily favored by most polls going into Election Day, sitting president Donald Trump outperformed projections in several key battleground states, leaving the race too close to call at press time.

By Thursday afternoon, most media agencies were reporting that Biden had secured a total of 264 electoral college votes. Trump had 214. The current president had a slight lead in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Alaska and North Carolina. If he carries those states, Trump’s EC votes climb to 268 — still 2 votes shy of the minimum 270 needed for victory.

Biden leads in Nevada, which would give him the 6 EC votes needed to win.

However, political pundits continue to debate whether Nevada — and even Arizona, which has already been called — will be confirmed in favor of the Democratic nominee. Others question whether Trump’s lead in red-leaning states is strong enough to overcome the anticipated influx of democrat voters who may flip those states in favor of Biden.

On the local scene, the lack of resolution is more accurately attributed to the unknown — and possibly significant — number of ballots that have not been tallied.

According to the Kern County Elections Division (kernvote.gov), the “unofficial final results” were updated at 2:18 a.m on Wednesday, Nov. 4. Their report to the Secretary of State (sos.ca.gov) indicates that 145,134 ballots out of 425,839 registered voters have been accounted for. So far, that indicates a voter turnout of approximately 34 percent.

However, some 251,056 out of 370,804, or 68 percent, of registered voters cast ballots in the 2016 Presidential Election.

In light of national reports of a “historic” turnout, this reporter made inquiries to election clerks about how many ballots remained uncounted. Initially, no response for the estimated ballots remaining, or a timeframe for conclusive counts, was provided. But Clerk Mary Bedard has been quoted in other publications as saying that number could be as high as 100,000.

Given typical voter turnout in Ridgecrest, citizens have speculated that half of the local ballots remain uncounted. While candidates with commanding leads may very well maintain the statistical likelihood of a win, an upset remains possible until the final numbers are reported.

In the race for Ridgecrest Mayor, Eric Bruen is the early front-runner with 2,148 votes, or 39.57 percent support of the public. He is followed by Lindsey Stephens with 1,558 votes (28.7 percent), Thomas Wiknich with 1,092 votes (20.11 percent) and Christian West with 630 votes (11.6 percent).

In 2016, 10,320 citizens cast a vote for mayor. So far, only 5,428 votes have been tallied for that race this election.

The lead candidates for the two available seats on the Ridgecrest City Council are Solomon Rajaratnam with 2632 votes (28.6 percent) and Kyle Blades with 2422 votes (26.32 percent). Trailing challengers include Steven Morgan (1789 votes, 19.44 percent), Lori Acton (1202 votes, 13.06 percent) and Christian Aguirre (1151 votes, 12.51%).

Front-runners for the two available seats on the Sierra Sands Unified School District are Michael Scott and Bill Farris. Although the majority of voters reside in Kern County, their totals include a combined 100 voters from San Bernardino County who live just east of city limits. Kern County totals are: Michael Scott — 4637 votes, 39.10 percent, Bill Farris — 3810 votes, 32.13 percent and Darrell Eddins Sr. — 3402 votes, 28.69 percent. San Bernardino voters cast 38 for Scott, 34 for Farris and 28 for Eddins.

Top vote-getters for the three available seats on the Indian Wells Valley Water District include Chuck Griffin (3582 votes, 24.51 percent), Mallory Boyd (3545 votes, 24.26 percent) and Chuck Cordell (3078 votes, 21.06 percent). Trailing are Ron Kicinski (2768 votes, 18.94 percent) and Andrew Guetzkow (1632 votes, 11.17 percent).

Based on available numbers, Kern County voters also chose to re-elect representatives in the U.S. House and California Assembly.

Republican Kevin McCarthy will continue to serve the 23rd Congressional District, receiving 94,025 votes (57.7 percent) in a contest with Democrat Kim Mangone, who received 68,949 votes (42.3 percent).

Republican Vince Fong earned 66,676 votes (64.1 percent) to continue serving as 34th district Assemblyman in a race with Democrat Julie Solis, who received 37,308 votes (35.9 percent).

Five of California’s 12 Propositions procured voter approval, including Prop 14 (bonds to continue stem cell research) with 51.1 percent support; Prop 17 (restores right to vote after prison term) with 59 percent; Prop 19 (property tax rule changes) with 51.5; Prop 22 (app-based driver and employee benefits) with 58.4 percent; and Prop 24 (amends consumer privacy laws) with 56.1 percent.

Failed propositions include Prop 15 (property tax to fund schools and government services), Prop 16 (affirmative action in government decisions), Prop 18 (lowers legal voting age), Prop 20 (parole restrictions for certain offenses), Prop 21 (expands governmental authority on rent control), Prop 23 (state requirements for kidney dialysis clinics) and Prop 25 (eliminates money bail system).

Both Kern County and California have 30 days from the election to certify final results. Updates will be posted online when they are available.

Pictured: While local numbers remain in question, nation sees record-high turnout for 2020 election. — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2020-11-06