Wapato mayoral candidate thinks votes have been held hostage as election made official

Wapato mayoral candidate thinks votes have been held hostage as election made official.

YAKIMA, Wash.- Yakima County certified its election results today, but a Wapato mayoral candidate says some votes were held hostage in this race.

“Their constitutional rights to have their vote count has been violated,” candidate Juan Orozco said.

He has lost the race according to the official results of the Yakima County election.

Over 30 ballots from Wapato were reviewed by a canvasing board to determine if the signatures matched, but only three were accepted.

The final numbers came out to 273-271 in favor of Hector Garza, who is a high school teacher and was unavailable for comments.

However, after hearing the results Orozco said this isn't right.

“It's never been two votes difference,” he said. “They are holding 21 votes that voted for me hostage. We won the election and they are handing it to somebody else.”

Some of the people with ballots in question attended the canvasing board meeting where the votes where projected onto a screen.

This is the first time the auditor’s office used a projector to show signatures to give people a better idea of what they look for.

“We wanted to provide some kind of projection so it was more clear to the public what we are seeing as well,” Bilingual Program & Office Coordinator Yolanda Arellano said.

She works in the elections department and said she doesn't want people to feel like their voice has been silenced.

However, she said this is the only way to verify mail-in ballots so that's why the process is so extensive.

"We're not looking for any signature,” Arellano said. “We are looking for the signature on the ballot. That is what we had to ensure matched and unfortunately for some ballots, that was not the case.”

Since the race was separated by less than .4%, the county has to do a mandatory recount, which will take place on Friday afternoon.

Orozco also said he is in the middle of seeking legal counsel but he couldn't comment about any details.

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