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Election night’s first results should come a little after 8 p.m., and those numbers could tell the whole story for many races.

The San Diego County Registrar of Voters expects the 8 p.m. count — mail and absentee ballots received by yesterday — to reveal as much as 30 percent of the election’s total ballots.

Mail ballot counts also have the advantage of indicating trends across an entire election district, rather than specific precincts.

“The days when you used to see wildly different results in the absentee and the polling are long gone,” said political consultant Jennifer Tierney.

The first results could give answers to many of the area’s closely watched races, like San Diego City Council’s District 6 race where Howard Wayne and Lorie Zapf are considered the front-runners to make it out of the primary and Proposition B in San Diego County where union organizers in favor of term limits for county supervisors raised more than $500,000 without opposition.

In elections expected to be more closely fought, the first results likely won’t be definitive but would give signs of what’s to come.

In San Diego’s City Council District 8, the early numbers could be vital to a campaign like B.D. Howard’. Howard had a presence from walking the district’s neighborhoods but didn’t have the money to compete with his three main rivals in advertisements that hit voters’ mailboxes in the last couple weeks. Voters who cast their ballots before the mail barrage should show the extent of Howard’s strength.

Proponents of the city’s strong mayor ballot proposition have been on a late fundraising spree, collecting more than a third of their $509,000 in total contributions in the campaign’s final two and a half weeks. All to go against an anti-strong mayor campaign that had raised nothing.

Tom Shepard, the pro-strong mayor strategist, said he expected the campaign would perform “slightly worse” among absentee voters than those who cast their ballots today. He hoped for percentages no lower than the high 40s in the first returns.

“If we’re in striking distance when the absentees come in I’ll be relatively optimistic,” Shepard said.

First results also should show whether challengers to long-time incumbent San Diego County Supervisors Ron Roberts and Bill Horn have a chance to keep them from winning outright and how close Sheriff Bill Gore might come to surpassing the 50 percent threshold.

As of Monday afternoon, 223,706 voters had returned mail ballots, about one-third of those that had been issued. Republicans had returned about 30,000 more of those ballots than Democrats, not surprising in a primary with multiple Republican candidates for state governor and U.S. Senate. Democrats have no top-of-the-ticket draw.

The 8 p.m. count is expected to be the only one for a while. The registrar isn’t expecting the first results from today’s voting to come any sooner than 9:30.

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Several candidates are vying for as many as two spots in a run-off election in San Diego’s Council District 8, the city’s southernmost neighborhoods. There’s the well-known Felipe Hueso and Nick Inzunza, the well-funded David Alvarez and the well-walked B.D. Howard. Campaign watchers in the district are projecting a low turnout in a district with by far the lowest number of registered voters in the city.

Hueso, Alvarez and Inzunza’s campaigns are estimating between 9,000 and 12,000 voters will cast ballots in the election, which would translate into an 18 percent to 24 percent turnout.

The lack of a top-of-the-ticket Democratic on the ballot could depress turnout — the four top candidates in District 8 are Democrats — but numbers in the district could also see a small boost from a hard-fought state senate Democratic primary between Juan Vargas and Mary Salas.

As few as 2,200 votes, a campaign strategist predicted, could be enough for a candidate to finish in the top two and make it into the general election.

Hueso, Alvarez and Inzunza’s camps all are confident they have enough voters committed to make it through to the general election. I haven’t been able to reach Howard.

“We’ve done what we’ve set out to do,” said Jake O’Neill, Hueso’s campaign manager.

— LIAM DILLON

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