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Council Race, Jail Issue Hinge On Absentee Ballots

Orville Barnes and John Talbott will have to wait until the middle of next week, at least, to find out who will hold a Spokane City Council seat.

Barnes, the incumbent, has a 29-vote lead.

County shoppers will have to wait that long, too, to discover whether an extra th cent sales tax will be collected for jail expansion.

The tax is behind by 31 votes.

Both races will be decided by absentee ballots, some of which still are in the mail.

The county elections office issued 15,489 absentee ballots for the Nov. 7 election, and only 5,508 were available to count on election night. Some were mailed early, others were cast at the courthouse.

Not all absentee ballots, which must carry postmarks of Nov. 7 or earlier, are expected to come in. County Elections Supervisor Tom Wilbur said the percentage varies from year to year, but usually 70-80 percent of voters who request absentee ballots actually bother to cast them.

Once they arrive, the absentee ballots are opened by elections office staff members. Any questions about the ballots must be referred to a special board comprised of Prosecutor Jim Sweetser, Auditor Bill Donahue and Commissioner Phil Harris.

Wilbur said a group of absentee ballots would be counted the middle of next week if a significant number are available. If not, all ballots will be counted on Nov. 21, so the county can report its final election tally to the state the next day.

, DataTimes