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Mail-in ballots could swing Mission mayoral race — if they’re actually in the mail

Mission Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas fell just three votes short of victory on Saturday, according to preliminary election results, likely sending him to a runoff with City Councilman Armando “Doc” O’caña.

While the Hidalgo County Elections Department ballot board will meet Friday afternoon to review provisional ballots and mail-in ballots, Salinas said he doesn’t expect them to make a difference — and he’s already preparing for the runoff.

20180511 MissionRunOff“Four years ago we did the same thing and ended up with more votes in the runoff,” said Salinas, 71, a rancher and land developer. “Those things happen when you have three people running. It’s very hard to win without a runoff.”

Salinas, who’s running for a sixth term, received 49.97 percent of 6,174 ballots cast, according to preliminary numbers published by the Elections Department. He fell three votes short of a majority.

O’caña placed second with 41.63 percent of ballots cast. They trounced businessman Jaime Gutierrez, who placed a distant third.

Between them, though, Gutierrez and O’caña had support from the majority of Mission voters.

“Some people want change,” said O’caña, 64, a La Joya school district administrator and member of the City Council. “A change in operations and a change in direction.”

If all the voters who want change support him, O’caña said he’ll win the runoff.

The ballot board will meet Friday afternoon to review provisional ballots and mail-in ballots for May elections across Hidalgo County.

The Elections Department will count ballots cast by provisional voters who return with photo identification. More complicated problems typically result in provisional ballots being discarded. They’re handled on a case-by-case basis.

Mission also had 735 mail-in ballots, according to information provided by county Elections Administrator Yvonne Ramon.

Voters returned 558 mail-in ballots. Another 41 people canceled their mail-in ballots to vote in person. Two ballots were returned by the U.S. Postal Service as undeliverable. One ballot was returned after the deadline. Another ballot is waiting for the ballot board to review. And another ballot is what the Elections Department calls an “error upload” entered in the system by mistake.

Another 131 ballots remained outstanding on Wednesday afternoon.

Depending on the circumstances, mail-in ballots involve different deadlines.

For example, the rules treat Mission residents in the military and stationed overseas differently than elderly residents who live in town.

After reviewing the provisional and mail-in ballots on Friday afternoon, the Elections Department will send the final numbers to the City of Mission. The ballot board meeting will determine whether or not the mayoral race results in a runoff.

“We’re getting ready for the runoff,” Salinas said. “We’re not waiting for Friday. I don’t think it’s going to make a difference.”

City Secretary Anna Carrillo said the City Council is scheduled to canvass the ballots on Monday and call a runoff election.

Regardless of what happens in the mayoral race, Mission must hold a runoff for City Council Place 4.

Hidalgo City Manager Julian J. Gonzalez won about 42 percent of ballots cast. He’ll face attorney Gus Martinez in the runoff.

Early voting is scheduled to start May 29 and end June 5. Election day will be June 9.

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