Lisa Herbold talks to a reporter on Election Night, when she was figuring she had lost.
West Seattle and South Park residents may have to wait another two weeks to learn who their next Seattle City Council representative will be. While they may be content to wait, the candidates, Lisa Herbold and Shannon Braddock, are anxious and drained, as the counting of ballots has dragged out without a clear winner.
At the end of a long campaign, everyone is just hoping to know on Election Night whether they won or lost, says Braddock campaign consultant Christian Sinderman. Instead, it's coming up on three weeks since the election with no clear winner yet. It's the only race that remains undecided in King County.
On Tuesday, the county is supposed to certify the results from the November 3 general election, but the only action likely to happen in the race for the city council's District 1 seat is an announcement of an automatic recount.
As of Friday afternoon, Herbold led by 32 votes out of more than 25,000 that had been cast. There will be another count Monday, but it's almost certain that the county will have to conduct a recount, either by machine or by hand. Herbold has 49.74 percent to Braddock's 49.61, meaning the race currently meets the standard for a hand recount — a margin of 0.25 percent or less. A machine recount is automatic when the margin is 0.5 percent or less.
This is the first try for an elected post for Herbold and Braddock, both of whom have been involved in local government — Herbold as a city council staffer and Braddock as a King County Council aide.
The candidates got a taste this summer of the drawn-out counts possible under Washington state's mail-in voting system, which allows ballots to count as long as they are postmarked by 8 p.m. on Election Day. In the August primary, they emerged from a field of nine candidates but it took days of counting before it was clear that Herbold had more votes than Braddock.
Still, on Nov. 3, both candidates seemed to think that the first batch of results was conclusive: Braddock led by about 6.5 percentage points, with 52.9 percent of the vote.
While Braddock stopped short of proclaiming victory, she told Crosscut that night, "It is close but I feel comfortable about where we are." She added, however, that she would be checking results every day at 4:30 p.m., when the county releases new vote totals.