In a close race for three Signal Hill City Council seats, voters chose experience as well as a fresh perspective.
Political newcomer Lori Woods and veteran incumbents Mike Noll and Ed Wilson will officially become part of the Signal Hill City Council Tuesday, March 19.
Noll, a veteran councilmember who currently serves as vice mayor and has been on the council for 20 years, is entering an unprecedented sixth term after receiving the most votes in the March 5 election, taking 17.7 percent of the total vote, or 633 votes. “Thank God it’s over,” said the retired businessman and real-estate agent who has called himself an “elder statesman.”
Woods, a 15-year Signal Hill resident and an entrepreneur in her first run for a government office, came in second, receiving 612 votes, or 17.11 percent of the tally.
The clincher, however, was the race for the third spot, which came down to Wilson and incumbent Ellen Ward, who have both been on the council together for three terms.
Although unofficial results showed Wilson leading by only one vote, the certified public accountant ended up winning the council seat after the rest of the ballots were counted, taking a total of 546 votes, or 15.26 percent of the vote, just 19 votes ahead of Ward, who took in a total of 527 votes, or 14.73 percent of the vote.
All three winning candidates were present at the City Council Chamber as city officials and the election services company Martin & Chapman, which the City contracted, counted the remaining 144 provisional and late vote-by-mail ballots. The release of final results was broadcast live on LBReport.com and the Signal Tribune’s website.
After polls closed on election night, the unofficial results, which include absentee ballots and polling-place ballots from the city’s three precincts, were delayed for hours at the City Council Chamber because of a ballot-reading machine experiencing technical malfunctions.
The machine, provided by Martin & Chapman, was eventually replaced with a new machine, but the unofficial results still included errors, which were discovered after all ballots were recounted.
“There’s a human element to elections,” said Dan Pabich of Martin & Chapman, who said he recommended that all ballots be recounted to make sure any errors were rectified.
“Tuesday night, a second machine was brought in to count the [vote-by-mail ballots]… the first machine wasn’t getting close,” Pabich said during the final count on March 8. “The second machine came in, and it counted the right amount of ballots, but some of these ballots start hitting each other and start jumbling up … that should have been rectified that night, but I’m going to rectify it today.”
Wilson, who called the election a “tough, interesting race,” said the final results show that he had a “slow start” in the beginning of his campaign but ended up coming in “strong in the end,” receiving more votes from polling places than absentees.
“I want to thank everyone who was part of my campaign… all the people who contributed, and most importantly the voters for having faith in me and allowing me to have another four years,” Wilson said. “I’m really, really excited about these next four years and in doing my best to represent everyone here in Signal Hill.”
Ward, who was on vacation at press time, said in an email that being on the Signal Hill City Council for the last 12 years has been a highlight in her career. “I believe the city is in good hands and will continue to thrive,” she said. “I look forward to staying active in our community, and I encourage all Signal Hill residents to do the same.”
Woods, who came just 21 votes away from Noll’s total, said she plans to focus on what her next steps are as a new city official in the next few days.
“I’ve got a really steep learning curve here,” she said. “I’m the rookie and the freshman. But so far the comments from the staff, from the city manager and from the incumbents are encouraging, and they are willing to help mentor me. Now the work is just starting.”
Signal Hill City Clerk Kathleen Pacheco is required, under the city’s election code, to conduct a final manual tally, or hand count, of ballots from the largest precinct. That hand count took place Tuesday, March 12. The official and final election results were certified Thursday, March 14 and posted on the City’s website.
At the next City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 19, the newly elected councilmembers will be sworn in, and the five-member council will nominate a new mayor and vice mayor.
According to the final election results, Signal Hill saw a jump in the number of its registered voters and the number of residents who voted.
There was a total of 1,308 ballots cast in this year’s city election, which is 21.29 percent of the 6,143 registered voters in Signal Hill– a city with a population of about 11,000 residents. The voter turnout percentage increased over the city’s last election, which was in March 2011, when 16.64 percent (or 986 voters) of the city’s registered voters at the time (5,923) cast ballots.
Both Woods and Wise credited the increase in voter turnout and voter registrants to the recent presidential election in November, adding that it could have helped their campaigns. Wise, who called Lori’s victory a “wake-up call,” said that the increase in voter turnout could also be attributed to more residents getting involved with the city.
The following are the final election results with total votes as released by the City:
Mike Noll: 633 votes
Lori Woods: 612 votes
Edward Wilson: 546 votes
Ellen Ward: 527 votes
Elizabeth Wise: 437 votes
Robert Mendoza: 429 votes
Nancy Sciortino: 393 votes