Oliver Again Gains on Moon, But Her Path to Victory Is Narrow

An Oliver victory will rely on an extremely strong showing with very few ballots.

Nikkita Oliver inched closer to Cary Moon Monday after 15,000 more ballots were counted. But with just a few thousand more ballots yet outstanding, the math for Oliver to overtake Moon and move on to the general election is increasingly tricky, if not impossible.

Here’s how the figures break down:

—Moon now holds a 1,664 vote lead over Oliver. That’s down from a lead of 2,235 votes on Friday. Moon’s lead over Oliver now represents less than a one percent difference in the 21-candidate race.

—There are technically enough ballots yet to be counted for Oliver to overcome that gap. According to King County Elections, there are 1,803 Seattle ballots that have not been counted due to issues with their signatures. Additionally, there are 1,600 “alternative format” ballots from across King County that have yet to be counted. Kendall LeVan Hodson with King County Elections says “alternative form” ballots include ballots that were photographed or scanned and then sent to the election’s office. According to state law, people who submit ballots this way are allowed to file a hard copy of their ballot after Election Day. In total, these makes a total of 3,403 ballots that could be outstanding in the mayor’s race (though the number is undoubtedly smaller, since some of the alternative form ballots are likely from outside Seattle), plus a small number that got held up in the mail.

—If every one of those 3,403 ballots were to be counted, Oliver would have to get 48 percent of the vote just to make up the 1,664-vote deficit she now has; assuming Moon also picks up some votes from the remaining ballots, Oliver’s performance would have to be even better. Oliver’s campaign has argued that its stands to fare well among challenged ballots, since historically marginalized groups more often have ballot issues. The campaign is now organizing outreach efforts for people whose ballots were contested, and says “dozens of volunteers” have signed on to the effort.

—It’s unlikely, though, that all outstanding ballots will be counted. Hodson says that in a typical election, only half of all challenged ballots end up getting counted. That said, she says it’s her impression that in tight elections “you will often seen a higher number. … Our best guess is that between 1,500-2,000 ballots in Seattle will be coming in,” she says.

—If 2,000 more ballots get counted in the mayor’s race, Oliver will have to get 83 percent of the vote to make up her 1,664 vote gap, again assuming that Moon doesn’t pick up any votes.

—That said, short of overtaking Moon outright, Oliver could prompt an automatic recount if she pulls within half a percentage point of Moon.

Oliver is not conceding. In a statement Monday, she said: “We’re within one percentage point, so we’re far from conceding. I believe in letting the process play itself out, so we’ll wait until every vote is counted. We’re moving in the right direction, and we have faith that the voters of Seattle want us in the general election…While there are still a few thousand votes left to be counted, I feel good about our chances.”


Correction: A previous version of this story implied that Oliver could trigger a recount if she pulled within .5 percent of total votes behind Moon. In fact, it’s Oliver and Moon’s vote totals that must be .5 percent apart. We explain here.

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