Silbiger's lead slips to 40 votes

His lead has narrowed, but incumbent Russ Silbiger is still in front of Pam Vavra in the race for City Council seat No. 5.

Updated results as of 4 p.m. Nov. 10 show Silbiger ahead by 40 votes with 46.32 percent (4,715 votes) to Vavra's 45.92 percent (4,675 votes).

Initial election results showed Silbiger up by 364 votes, which slipped to 78 votes Nov. 5.

Countywide, the elections office received 101,981 ballots. Officials have counted 100,876 ballots, leaving 1,105 left to be processed.

The elections office has until Nov. 24 to certify the results, County Clerk Chris Walker said. However, if the final results show the candidates separated by no more than 0.2 percent, it would trigger an automatic recount. Between Silbiger and Vavra this would translate to about 19 votes, depending on the final numbers, Walker said.

They are currently separated by 0.4 percent.

Not all of the remaining ballots will be counted, Walker said.

Many of them are signature challenges, which require voters to come to the elections office by 4 p.m. Friday to verify their signatures, but not everyone bothers to do that, Walker said. They should have results from these ballots on Monday, she said.

The elections office is also working to resolve ballots affected by the Help America Vote Act, which requires identification to vote in federal elections. Elections workers have to go into the computer by hand to see if voters lacking identification on their registration provided one by 8 p.m. on Election Day, Walker said.

With write-in votes, workers have to go through the ballots by hand, as the tabulating machine can't read the names, she added.

"It's just a lot of paperwork," Walker said.

The situation is not unusual and occurs every year, Walker said. It just happens that the race is close.

"We'll probably have some updates throughout the week," she said.

The ballots are not separated by precinct, so there is no way to know how many Ashland ballots remain.

Once the election is certified, they have to begin administrative recounts, Walker said.

A new state law requires post-election hand counts of randomly selected races and precincts in all 36 counties to verify that machines counted accurately.

Vavra said she does not anticipate a change in the outcome of the race, although it seems possible that she might come within the 0.2 percent margin needed for an automatic recount.

"I would welcome a recount because I believe several hundred of the undervotes are likely to be real votes, and I wish to see every vote counted," she said.

When a voter does not cast a vote in a race, it's recorded as an undervote. The race for council seat No. 5 currently has 2,428 undervotes.

Silbiger said he feels like Al Franken, "only not as funny."

In Minnesota, a tight race for the U.S. Senate between incumbent Norm Coleman and comedian Al Franken has triggered an automatic recount scheduled to start next week.

"At this point, I'm just waiting for the final results," Silbiger said. "Whatever happens, happens."

Staff writer Kira Rubenthaler can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 226 or

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