Recount yields 3-vote difference

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tim James was only one vote closer to having the votes he needs to secure second place in the Republican gubernatorial primary after Covington County ballots were recounted yesterday.

A three-vote difference was found during Tuesday’s local recount.

The recount, called at the behest of third-place finisher Tim James, was one of many held statewide; however, it could be days before the end result is known as other counties won’t start their recounts until later in the week.

In the local recount, James, as well as first place finisher Bradley Byrne and candidate Bill Johnson each received one extra vote. The discrepancy was identified as two absentee ballots and one regular ballot.

Covington County Probate Judge Ben Bowden said he’s not 100 percent sure how the three extra votes come into play.

“It appears now that the recount results are almost identical to the results on election night,” Bowden said. “We are studying the data to see where the three vote difference came from, and hopefully, we will have a firm answer on that soon. I have instructed the chief clerk to look into this further so that we can determine what happened. We will also discuss the results with ES&S, the contractor who provides the machines and election supplies to help us understand the difference.”

So what does this mean?

“Officially, the three-vote difference means nothing unless a candidate files a contest,” Bowden said.

“The results certified by the state and local parties last week remain the official results.”

James filed a contest of the primary vote Monday. Party spokesman Philip Bryan says state law requires the party to start to the process within 10 days.

The party’s 21-member candidate committee will hear the contest June 24, but it is not required to make a decision that day. It could wait until after the runoff July 13.

Attorney General Troy King said James’ contest was premature; stating it shouldn’t have been filed until after a party nominee is picked in the runoff July 13.

Locally, James’ poll representative – Andalusian Rex Jones – said the county’s results could be an “anomaly” credited to the “hustle and bustle of election night.”

“But, it could be that way in six or seven counties, but I don’t think we’ll know until the end of the week just because of the volume in the bigger counties,” Jones said.

“We’re all human. Mistakes happen, but when it’s as close as a 167 vote difference, we all want to know the answer.”

As for the local difference, Bowden said more than 6,000 ballots were cast in the primary election, involving more than 100 election officials.

“Nonetheless, we will continue to work hard to constantly improve the process,” he said. “The only standard we are willing to accept when it comes to counting votes is perfection.”