There are two groups of unsung heroes from this year’s election that deserve some recognition.
The first group is you. Well, and us. And a bunch of people who have never read this newspaper and who probably don’t even know it exists. In short, everyone who voted on Nov. 4 (or by mail in the weeks before).
The historic nature of this election was seen in turnout numbers throughout the nation, and especially locally. The Patterson mayoral race drew nearly 4,700 total votes, easily the highest turnout in our history. Heck, many of us can recall a time when our entire population wasn’t even that high.
Countywide, more than 160,000 people cast ballots. That was enough for a turnout of more than 70 percent of registered voters, a major benchmark in any election and the highest in the county in many years.
So if you voted, give yourself a pat on the back.
If there’s any downside to such enormous voter turnout, it’s that it makes things very difficult for election workers. Long lines at the polls and people showing up at the wrong polling places are only the start.
The whole thing was a major headache for the Stanislaus County Elections Office, which is also getting some kudos from us today. Registrar of Voters Lee Lundrigan and her staff performed beyond expectations under some extreme circumstances.
They counted tens of thousands of ballots on Election Night, then pored over some 30,000 late-arriving vote-by-mail ballots and underwent the arduous task of verifying nearly 9,000 provisional ballots.
Even more impressive, they opted for a full hand recount of the county’s closest election this year, the one for the Del Puerto Health Care District board.
Anne Stokman easily won the first of two open seats, but incumbents Jeannette Kessler and Ed Maring were neck-and-neck all the way for the second spot. Rather than wait for one candidate or the other to demand a recount, Lundrigan and her crew started recounting the ballots anyway.
The result: a two-vote victory for Kessler that’s much less likely to be disputed thanks to Monday’s hand recount.
With all of those challenges, the county elections office staff certified its vote Monday night, more than a week before the state’s Dec. 2 deadline and less than three weeks after Election Day.
And did we mention how media-friendly Lundrigan and her staff are? It’s a major plus, as far as we’re concerned. They made the whole process as transparent as possible, with updates every step of the way, and the fact that Lundrigan answered every media request herself added credibility to the information we received.
It was a fine job all around.