As Election Day edged into the day after the election, about 64,000 Sonoma County mail-in ballots remained uncounted.

That could play a key role in determining some races that hang in the balance, particularly the one for 1st District Supervisor, where opponents Susan Gorin and John Sawyer were separated by fewer than 400 votes.

Of the county's 260,448 registered voters, 184,671, or 71?percent, received mail-in ballots. Of those, roughly 121,000 were returned in time to be counted Tuesday, said county elections chief Janice Atkinson.

Those that arrived in the mail Tuesday or were delivered at polling places won't be immediately counted. Counting them will likely take the full four weeks allowed by law, Atkinson said.

In the June primary, about 23,250 mail-in ballots came in on Election Day, and it took 22 days to report the final results. Historically, Atkinson said, about 35,000 mail-in ballots are mailed or come in on Election Day.

If that holds, turnout among mail-in voters will be around 85?percent. Usually, polling place turnout is somewhat higher, especially in presidential election cycles, Atkinson said.

Political experts said earlier that a big Election Day turnout could favor Gorin, especially if she was leading in early returns.

Officials have pushed for years to increase early voting. But, as some Santa Rosa voters said Tuesday, the physical act of going to the polling place provides a particular satisfaction.

"I always vote in person. It has more spice to it. It doesn't feel passive," said Eric Moes, 43, before he got on his bike to head to work.

First-time voter Pete Chapdelaine, 44, said after serving in the U.S. Coast Guard and moving around for years, he now was ready to vote.

"I feel good. My voice has been heard," Chapdelaine said.

(You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or

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