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Luck of the draw will apparently decide incumbent councilman’s opponent

The luck of the draw will apparently decide who joins incumbent Don Vlieger on the general election ballot for the Sunnyside City Council, District 3 race.

That’s after Yakima County election officials added one more ballot to the count yesterday, Wednesday, as a previously unsigned ballot was signed and returned.

Previously, Vlieger led Spencer Martin 57-to-56 with Victor Ochoa in third place at 55 votes. But yesterday’s additional vote tied Martin and Ochoa at 56 votes each.

If the tie stands from now until the primary result is certified on Aug. 20, then election officials will hold a random number draw to determine the runner-up.

Besides yesterday potentially changing the outcome of the race, Wednesday also saw a change in how Yakima County communicates with the media and public on election issues.

Previously, Elections Manager Kathy Fischer communicated with the media on election matters along with County Auditor Corky Mattingly.

As of yesterday, Mattingly is now the sole communications person on election issues.

“It’s a management issue,” she said after asking whether her reply would be included in a news story. “I am the auditor, I am the elected official. I don’t think it’s your concern whether Kathy will be talking to you.”

Mattingly said the change is not because of any errors in the office.

That assessment was backed up by Libby Neiland, a program specialist for certification and training programs with the Secretary of State’s elections division.

She said Mattingly’s office contacted her about whether to release the identity of the voter who submitted a ballot without signing it.

Neiland said the idea was to see if there was a way the county could withhold releasing the information since there was only one voter involved and his favored candidate would be apparent.

“We tried to see if there was any other action that could be available and at this point in time I don’t think there was,” she said.

She emphasized election officials at the county and state levels do all they can to protect the privacy of voters. In the case of the single unsigned Sunnyside ballot, she noted the voter did not have to comply with a media request to talk with him and film him signing the ballot.

The Sunnyside primary race is the first of its kind from her experience, says Neiland.

“This is a unique situation,” she said. “The improbability of it (a primary resting on one unsigned vote) is rather high.”

Neiland added, “I’ve seen situations with two or three ballots but never three candidates resting on a single vote.”

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