Silvana fire district vote drags on

It’s December, and Mark Winterhalter and Steve Geiger are locked in an election battle that just won’t end.

Voters are almost evenly divided between the two, who are vying to be fire commissioner in Silvana. Geiger was leading by five votes, 459-454.

But one more ballot trickled in by mail this week, long after election night Nov. 8. It was a vote for Winterhalter.

Geiger’s margin of victory slipped to four votes, forcing a machine recount, Snohomish County Auditor Bob Terwilliger said.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” Geiger said. “The race has been running very, very close since election night.”

The fire district serves 3,500 people in 35 square miles with 17 volunteer firefighters, one paid firefighter and an annual budget of $510,000.

The district has gone two years without a chief, Geiger said, and officials are debating where a new firetruck should go and who should handle ambulance runs and emergency medical services.

“I’m optimistic we can hold the lead through the recount process,” Geiger said.

In a phone message, Winterhalter said, “It’s not over till the last mule is counted.” He was elected in 1994 and is seeking a third six-year term in rural Fire District 19.

The ballot cast for Winterhalter was among 15 the county tallied Tuesday, just under the wire before the election was certified.

A new state law allowed counties six more days to finalize election tallies, Terwilliger said. That gave more time for ballots delayed in the mail to be counted.

Fourteen of the additional ballots arrived by mail from overseas or out of state, including 13 on Monday and one on Tuesday. Also, one voter cleared up a signature problem with his absentee ballot on Monday before a 5 p.m. deadline, Terwilliger said. That is also allowed by state law.

All the newly received ballots “were postmarked before the election or wouldn’t have been counted,” Terwilliger said.

A panel of officials will meet Dec. 8 to consider conducting the recount Dec. 9, Terwilliger said.

Reporter Jeff Switzer: 425-339-3452 or

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