After Ashley Carson Cottingham and Karina Guzman Ortiz had comfortable leads over their Salem-Keizer school board opponents on election night, their margins have shrunk considerably after additional votes were tallied.
Currently Cottingham has a slim 86 vote lead over Linda Farrington in the Zone 3 race, while Ortiz has a 279 vote lead over Mike Slagle in the Zone 5 race.
Cottingham and Ortiz are part of the progressive slate that competed against a conservative slate.
The other two progressives have insurmountable leads. Osvaldo Avila is up by 1,807 votes over Kari Zohner in the Zone 1 race. Maria Hinojos Pressey is up by 1,099 votes over Liam Collins.
So whether the seven member Salem-Keizer school board has a progressive or conservative majority comes down to the Cottingham-Farrington and Ortiz-Slagle races, since the three board members not up for election this year are conservatives.
A Salem Reporter story says that final vote results won't be released until June 2, following a two-week period when citizens whose votes weren't counted have the opportunity to "cure" ballots lacking a signature or having a signature that doesn't match the one on file.
Sure, I could wait for June 2 to come around and see whether Cottingham and Ortiz win, as I hope they will. But that's no fun for a political junkie like me.
So I did some analyzing of the uncounted votes reported in the Salem Reporter story with the goal of figuring out the likelihood that Farrington and Slagle will overcome the leads enjoyed by Cottingham and Slagle.
Bottom line: Farrington has a decent chance of beating Cottingham, though Cottingham is favored to win. Slagle, though, almost certainly won't beat Ortiz.
Here's how I reached those conclusions.
The Salem Reporter story says that Marion County Elections rejected 512 ballots due to signature problems. Either the ballot envelope wasn't signed (148) or the signature didn't match the one on file (364). Bill Burgess, the county clerk, estimated that about 2/3 of ballots came from voters within the school district boundaries.
Two-thirds of 512 is 341. So that's the number I used for potential additional Salem-Keizer school board votes from Marion County. The story also said that a few hundred ballots are uncounted in Polk County (West Salem) and about 100 Polk County ballots have signature issues.
Today Polk County reported 274 additional votes. So I'm assuming that accounts for the "few hundred." The Polk County tallies for the Salem-Keizer school board races didn't change, which means the 274 additional votes came from outside the school district boundary,
That leaves the other 100 ballots with signature issues. To date 47% of Polk County voters cast ballots in the Salem-Keizer school board races. One hundred times .47 equals 47, the number I used for potential additional Salem-Keizer school board votes from Polk County.
Adding 341 (Marion County) and 47 (Polk County) gave me an estimate of 388 for the total number of potential additional school district votes.
Since Farrington is 86 votes behind Cottingham, she needs to get 87 votes more than Cottingham from the pool of 388 potential additional ballots. To do this, Farrington would have to get a bit more than 61% of the 388 (237), leaving Cottingham with 39% (151).
Yet so far Farrington and Cottingham have been splitting the vote 50-50. Sure, it's possible Farrington would get more than 61% of the ballots with signature problems.
But there's no reason to think that these voters are different from the pool of voters whose ballots already have been counted. And every ballot with a signature problem that isn't resolved reduces the number of additional school district votes, making it more difficult for Farrington to close the 86 vote gap with Cottingham.
(For example, if there are only 300 ballots with signature problems that end up being counted, Farrington would need a bit less than 65% of them to surpass Cottingham's vote total.)
So this is why Cottingham is in a better position than Farrington to end up winning the Zone 3 school board seat. Obviously the fewer votes left to count, the harder it is to close a vote gap, even one as small as 86 votes. This requires getting a considerably larger percent of the vote than the 50-50 split in the current pool of 43,026 votes.
Slagle faces a much greater hurdle in his race with Ortiz. Behind by 279 votes with my estimate of 388 potential additional ballots, Slagle would have to get 86% of the 388 to overtake Ortiz' vote total. That isn't going to happen.