Not so fast in close races: Douglas, Sarpy still have thousands of votes to count

November 10, 2018

The candidates in a handful of extraordinarily close races Tuesday in Douglas County should wait to celebrate victory or concede defeat.

As many as 11,000 votes are yet to be counted, said Douglas County Election Commissioner Brian Kruse.

About 6,000 to 7,000 early ballots that arrived at the office on Tuesday, either in drop boxes or by mail, will be checked for signatures and counted on Friday. Another 4,200 or so provisional ballots will be checked over the next week and tallied by Nov. 16.

Kruse declined to say whether the additional votes are likely to change the outcome in any race.

“We’re not here to speculate on that,” he said. “We’re just here to count the votes that come in.”

Historically, early ballots and provisional ballots don’t deviate very far from the overall patterns of a race, so fans of Democrat Kara Eastman shouldn’t expect her to overcome a 7,312-vote deficit against U.S. Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb.

But in smaller-margin races, think gaps of tens to hundreds, there’s a chance for a flip. It happened as recently as this May’s primary, when Brad Ashby overtook third-place finisher Dennis Womack’s election night lead for the Metro Community College board. It also happened in a 2006 legislative race involving Steve Lathrop and Jean Stothert, which finished Election Day with a 14-vote Stothert lead and ended after the follow-up counts in a 14-vote win for Lathrop.

Sarpy County finished counting its early voting ballots Tuesday night, and it has about 1,000 provisional ballots to count, Sarpy County Election Commissioner Michelle Andahl said.

For this election, the ballots remaining to be counted could determine the outcome of the following races:

Legislative District 10. Omaha college educator Wendy DeBoer held a 37-vote lead over attorney Matt Deaver at the end of regular ballot-counting. Deaver, a Republican with backing from Gov. Pete Ricketts, and DeBoer, a Democrat, are battling for the seat being vacated by Sen. Bob Krist, who is term-limited.Legislative District 6. Sen. Theresa Thibodeau, a small-business owner, appears to have lost to Machaela Cavanaugh, a Democrat who works for the Buffett Early Childhood Institute. Cavanaugh holds a 202-vote lead over Thibodeau, a Republican, who was appointed to the central Omaha seat.Omaha Public Power District, Subdivision 1. Amanda Bogner, who advocates for a faster shift toward more renewable energy and less use of fossil fuels, has a 57-vote lead over Kristine Dungan, an OPPD financial services retiree who wants to see more transparency in the agency.A La Vista City Council race in Ward 2 has a gap of 37 votes, with Terrilyn Quick leading Nicolas Crawford.

World-Herald staff writer Martha Stoddard contributed to this report.

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