01:31 PM PDT on Saturday, July 10, 2010

By DUANE W. GANG
The Press-Enterprise

CORRECTION:

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the additional Riverside County votes changed the outcome of the Democratic nomination for the 40th Senate District race. The version below reflects the corrected information.

Riverside County elections officials finished counting 12,563 mail-in ballots early Saturday morning.

With the additional votes counted, Assemblywoman Mary Salas had just over 50 percent of the vote in Riverside County in the race for the Democratic nomination in the 40th state Senate District, which includes parts of Riverside and San Diego counties and all of Imperial County.

However, front-runner Juan Vargas still maintains a 23-vote lead when the new Riverside County vote totals are added into the statewide totals on the California secretary of state’s website. Vargas had 24,282 votes in the three-county race; Salas has 24,259 votes.

The election results have not been certified by either the county or secretary of state.

The opponents were previously separated by only 12 votes.

As many as 890 votes from the 40th Senate District may have been among the 12,563, registrar of voters records show.

In the race for district attorney, Paul Zellerbach widened his lead over Rod Pacheco, receiving 111,740 total votes to incumbent Pacheco’s 103,273.

Riverside County spokesman Ray Smith said officials finished counting around 6 a.m. Saturday, calling it the final step in a long series of challenges.

“We’re very pleased that the judge made the decision he did,” Smith said.

In addition, 230 votes separated the sixth- and seventh-place finishers in a race for the Riverside County Democratic Central Committee. Gwendolyn Cross maintained the last of the six available spots, while party Chairwoman Betty McMillion remained in seventh place.

Twelve candidates were running for six positions.

A mix-up with the U.S. Postal Service kept the ballots out of the hands of elections officials until after the polls closed on Election Day — the legal deadline to count the ballots.

The vote-by-mail ballots were the most high-profile glitch from last month’s election.

They were sorted at a U.S. Postal Service facility in Moreno Valley by 8:30 a.m. on Election Day. But no one from the registrar’s office picked them up from the Moreno Valley site.

For the last 12 years, elections officials picked up ballots at the Chicago Avenue post office in Riverside twice on Election Day and visited a distribution facility in Redlands shortly before polls closed at 8 p.m.

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