Outcome of District 3 race may remain uncertain for days

The race for District 3 supervisor, between Aaron Peskin, left, and Julie Christensen could be decided by only a few hundred votes. (courtesy photos)

For those waiting to learn the results of the District 3 race, which could change the direction of San Francisco’s politics, the wait may extend past Tuesday night.

That’s because, as in previous elections, all the votes will not be counted Tuesday when polling stations close at 8 p.m. For races and measures that aren’t close, the delay is essentially insignificant.

But for those close races, the counting of ballots that extend over the course of the days following election night could change the perceived outcomes.

The District 3 contest between Mayor Ed Lee’s appointee Julie Christensen and progressive challenger Aaron Peskin is considered a very close race that could be decided by only a few hundred votes.

John Arntz, director of the Department of Elections, told the San Francisco Examiner last week that he plans to issue the first count of a portion of the ballots cast at 8:45 p.m.

That count will represent the vote-by-mail ballots received by the department up until today. As of Thursday, the department had received 50,000 vote by mail ballots, of which nearly 6,000 were from District 3 voters. Arntz said the turnout in District 3 has come in at 5 percent higher than the overall citywide turnout of 12 percent of registered voters, as of Thursday.

As the ballots come in from the voting precincts, the department will update the tallies with all polling stations reporting sometime before midnight.

Arntz said he plans to run ranked choice voting, where the voters’ first, second and third candidate choices are factored in, twice on Election Day — with the first results announced at 8:45 p.m. and with the last expected count for the day, sometime between 11 p.m. and midnight. In the District 3 race, voters could rank Peskin, Christensen and “perennial candidate” Wilma Pang, a Chinese-American who is expected to have strong support among Chinatown’s Asian voters.

What would remain uncounted that day are the vote-by-mail ballots received by the department Tuesday, including those vote-by-mail ballots dropped off at polling stations. Also uncounted Tuesday will be ballots cast by those that day at City Hall and the so-called provisional ballots — which for any number of reasons were not initially counted by the machines and need to be reviewed for validity.

Arntz said he expects to have all ballots counted by Friday or Saturday.

As a note of caution to election observers, in the 2012 District 7 supervisor race, on election night, candidate F.X. Crowley was leading by 338 votes.

But Norman Yee took the lead the following Saturday by 29 votes as the counting of ballots continued each day after election night. Ultimately Yee prevailed by a margin of 132 votes in the final count.

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