With almost every vote counted, incumbent West Lane Commissioner Jay Bozievich has increased his advantage over challenger Dawn Lesley to 85 votes from 45 votes, according to updated results released by Lane County Elections on Friday afternoon.
With 50.16 percent of the vote, Bozievich also moved to 23 votes ahead of the 50 percent plus one vote required to avoid a November runoff. He had previously been only five votes over that threshold.
"I believe that we've won," Bozievich said, after the results were released. "But I can't completely rejoice until the election is officially certified" by the county clerk, he said. The county has until June 9 to do that.
Lesley didn't concede Friday, however, noting that some ballots remain to be counted.
"While the updated results are not going in the direction we wanted to see, we want make sure that all the votes are counted," she said. "The margins are still extremely small."
Friday's results brought the East Lane race closer to a November runoff, meanwhile.
Incumbent Faye Stewart is now avoiding a runoff against leading challenger Kevin Matthews by 13 votes, down from 33 votes in the previous results.
Stewart has 50.10 percent of the vote, compared to 35 percent for Matthews and 14 percent combined for his other three challengers.
Stewart said he was "staying cautious" until the certification.
"But I feel good that I'm still over the 50 percent threshold," he said.
Matthews said that while "the numbers are still moving around, I'm sure happy that (Stewart's margin for avoiding a runoff) has dropped by more than half" in the latest results.
The main category of ballots still uncounted are ones with signature problems -- either they are unsigned or the signature on the ballot doesn't match county records. The elections office will contact those voters and they will have 14 days to resolve the issue.
Lane County ballots that were dropped off in ballot boxes in other counties -- usually no more than 20 votes per election -- also remain to be counted.
In the last three days, the elections office tallied an additional 2,451 votes countywide that had various issues and that couldn't be read by vote-counting machines. A total of 517 new votes were tallied in West Lane County, and 487 in the East Lane County.
The county was unable to provide an estimate of the number of votes still uncounted at the end of the day Friday. County officials said that no more results will likely be released until the election is officially certified by Lane County clerk Cheryl Betschart.
If either election is ultimately decided by less than 0.2 percent of the vote, state law mandates automatic recounts, at public expense, for any lead of less than 0.2 percent of the vote.
If not eligible for an automatic recount, the losing candidates could also potentially initiate recounts on their own. A candidate who wants a recount must pay for it and is reimbursed only if the recount changes the result.
County officials have not yet provided a cost estimate on a full recount in a county commissioner race.
Matthews said Friday that a recount is "very much something we would consider" if the margin to force a runoff remains very small.
"In this close of a race, we're interested in accuracy and making sure that everyone who voted gets their vote counted," he said.
Lesley was more noncommittal about the possibility of initiating a recount.
"Until the count is final, we don't have enough information to know" whether it's something we would consider, she said.
Bozievich said that he believes his margins in the West Lane race are now large enough that a recount would not change the outcome or force a runoff.
Those gaps "couldn't be surmounted in a recount," he said. "Not with the modern technology that's used to (initially) count vote now."
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