SANTA CRUZ -- Eric Hammer has closed the gap in the Santa Cruz County Fifth District supervisor's race with Bruce McMherson, but it appears the progressive's campaign is going to fall short.
Since the county began sorting through 8,800 provision ballots countywide, former Secretary of State Bruce McPherson's narrow lead has shrunk from 245 to 153. But there are no provisional ballots left to tally in the race, and McPherson is the likely winner barring an unexpected development.
County Clerk Gail Pellerin has until Dec. 4 to certify the results.
"We have been working continuously, taking very little time off. It's just a very labor-intensive job," Pellerin said. "We want it as fast as everyone else wants it. We want it to be done. [But] our top priority is for it to be done accurately."
The record number of provisionals have slowed finalizing the results of the Nov. 6 election, and many counties statewide are still sorting through ballots. Each provisional vote requires research to make sure a voter was eligible to vote, in some cases including calling individual voters.
The clerk's office also is canvassing the votes, a process that takes place after every election and includes verifying reported vote totals from polling places and searching for any ballots that may have been left uncounted.
That appears to be Hammer's only hope to close the gap: an error or an unexpected trove of missed ballots. At this point, both are
"We're continuing to go through trays of ballots," Pellerin said.
The hard-fought campaign pitted a longtime local lawmaker and benefactor in McPherson against a relative newcomer with deep roots in the San Lorenzo Valley in Hammer.
Once the dust settles, it appears the two candidates will be separated by less than 200 votes, out of more than 24,000 cast.
Follow Sentinel reporter Jason Hoppin on Twitter at Twitter.com/scnewsdude