Election Day

A line of people waiting to vote forms in the Tuolumne County Election Office on 2 South Green Street on November 3rd.

After 3,000 additional ballots were processed by Thursday afternoon, Tuolumne County had officially catalogued the highest voter turnout of any election dating back to 1990, which is as far back as records go on the California Secretary of State's website. 

The latest results showed a total of 30,239 voters in Tuolumne County cast ballots in the 2020 election out of 35,042 registered voters, which accounts for 86.29% percent participation, all of which were higher than any other election in the county over the past 30 years.

"I am proud of the citizens of Tuolumne County,” Debi Bautista, county clerk, auditor-controller and registrar of voters, said Thursday. “Not only did they register to vote and get active in this election, but they actually showed up at the polls and mailed in ballots and dropped them off. 

They definitely have made choices for what they want for our community for the next multiple years." 

The county elections office was processing 365 conditional ballots this week, mostly made up of new registrants who cast live ballots on Tuesday. 

Conditional ballots take longer to validate because the elections office must confirm people's information in order for them to be registered. 

"Usually, it's substantially most of what's left," Bautista said.

The county can also receive mail-in ballots for up to 17 days after the election, which in this case would be Nov. 20, only if they are postmarked on Nov. 3 or earlier. Most of the ballots still in the mail are expected to be received by the end of the week and be counted before the end of next week.

Bautista estimated anywhere between 400 and 500 ballots total would be processed before the election was certified and the results codified.

She said she does not expect to release another update until the time she certified unless the results are materially changed by the new ballots, though that wasn’t unexpected.

The final results must be certified around the beginning of December, but not until after Nov. 20.

New results released Thursday prompted a concession from District 1 county supervisor write-in candidate Cody Ritts, who was down more than 800 votes from his opponent, David Goldemberg.

Goldemberg earned 2,761 votes, or 51.61%, while Ritts had 1,937 votes, or 36.21%. 

Incumbent County Supervisor Sherri Brennan, who dropped out of the race after the primary earned 652 votes, or 12.19%.

"Clearly, Mr. Goldemberg has won, and I hope he has a successful run as supervisor," Ritts said. "I think for a write-in, we did phenomenally well. I think we did better than we were hoping when I decided to run. We had certain goals and frankly we blew all them away. When you’re this close at the end, you really want to push for that and really want to hope for that."

Ritts said he was most proud of running a write-in candidate campaign that was still able to earn a significant amount of votes and community support. 

"It’s definitely been a busy eight weeks,” he said. “I’m thankful and really happy and really proud how it went.”

Goldemberg noted he always believed the divide was insurmountable for Ritts and said his attention was turning toward his term.

"We've got a lot of work to do,” he said. “People elected us for a reason. They want change, they clearly want to see change and they want to see more openness. Everyone says transparency, but what we need is people who are willing to listen and be open and honest. I'm really looking forward to bringing that. It's going to be a very different board in that respect." 

The percentage of participation steadily increased between the 2004 election and now, though the total number of registered voters sometimes wavered.

In 2004, there were 33,373 registered voters, with 26,791 ballots cast, or 80.28%. In 2008, there were 33,650 registered voters with 27,499 ballots cast, or 81.74%. In 2016, there were 31,402 registered voters with 26,404 ballots cast, or 84.08%

Some close races did see some changes as a result of the new ballots.

In the race for the Soulsbyville Elementary School District board, Timothy Morton pulled ahead of appointed incumbent Patrick Corcoran 955 votes to 944. Incumbent Trustee Heather Spangler retained the top position with 1,403 votes. 

Bautista said the Soulsbyville election was the only race that could possibly switch with the ballots currently being processed.

The City of Sonora's Measure S, which would have the city clerk position be appointed rather than elected, widened an 11 vote divide to more than 35 votes, likely positioning it to pass.  

Voters previously rejected a similar measure during the primary. Both were intended to save the city money by not having to hold an election held every four years for the position, which no one ran for in the March 3 primary.

Jaron Brandon won the District 5 county supervisor election with 3,362 votes to 2,316 for incumbent Karl Rodefer as of the latest results on Thursday.

Rodefer conceded the race Tuesday night after the first batch of results showed Brandon with a lead of more than 1,000 votes. 

The race for three seats on Tuolumne Utilities District Board of Directors was won by TUD Director Barbara Balen and challengers David Boatright and Lisa Murphy.

Boatright remained in first place Thursday with 12,608 votes; Balen had 11,444 votes; Murphy had 9,773 votes; incumbent TUD Director Ron Kopf had 9,133 votes; and former TUD Director Jim Grinnell had 5,826 votes.

Two seats on the Summerville Union High School District Board of Education were won by newcomer Dave Atkins, a small business owner and an ordained minister at Calvary Chapel Sonora, who remained in the lead Thursday with 3,201 votes, followed by incumbent Trustee Dennis Spisak with 2,229 votes. Ryan Wynne was in third place with 1,875 votes. 

Incumbent Trustee Dennis Spisak looked poised to keep his seat with 2,229 votes, while challenger Ryan Wynne ended the night with 1,875 votes.

Krysta Wolken, a family nurse practitioner, was in the lead for one seat on the Sonora Union High School District Board of Trustees with 2,621 votes, followed by Randy Selesia with 2,192 votes and 12-year incumbent Trustee Jeanie Smith with 1,609 votes.

Rebekah Sandlin and Molly Day maintained leads in the hotly-contested Columbia Union School District Board of Trustees race that featured seven candidates vying for two seats, though Day entered into the leading position from second place in the previous count.

Day has 1,152 votes followed by Sandlin with 1,118 votes. 

Ballot measures to raise the Transient Occupancy Tax rates in Tuolumne County and the City of Sonora also were also sure to pass based on the results from Thursday.

Measure U applied to the unincorporated area of Tuolumne County and had 15,581 “yes” votes to 13,517 “no” votes, while Measure T applied to the incorporated City of Sonora limits and had 1,333 “yes” votes to 1,001 “no” votes.

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