Judge Tracy Schumacher ruled this morning that a recount of 13,550 ballots for the State House District 45 race will be held at the Cleveland County Courthouse.
Paula Roberts, Democratic candidate for House District 45, requested the recount after Cleveland County Election Board officials counted provisional ballots and opened and counted 60 mail-in absentee ballots that had been misplaced and gone uncounted in the Nov. 6 general election. The vote was not certified because of the recount request.
Incumbent Republican Aaron Stiles currently is the unofficial winner of the race by a margin of 18 votes.
Attornies for both candidates stipulated to the fact that they agreed the ballots had been secured and could be counted without fear that they had been exposed to the potential for tampering. The sheriff’s office will be charged with securely transporting the ballots to the courthouse for the recount.
The daylong recount process will involve six tables with teams of four people at each table counting the ballots by hand. A caller will read the ballot and call out the vote. The stacker will take the ballot and confirm the caller’s announcement. The stacker and the caller will be of opposite political parties.
Two people will tally the votes as they are called out to protect against human error. They also will be of opposing political parties, so each party will have equal and fair representation at each counting table.
In addition, both candidates will have watchers present throughout the day.
Roberts’ attorney, Greg Bledsoe, requested that the recount be conducted at the courthouse under the watchful eye of the judge.
Assistant District Attorney Carol Dillingham requested that the proceedings be moved to the county election board for the sake of convenience. Cleveland County Election Board Secretary Jim Williams had set up tables ahead of time, in the event that the judge ruled to move the recount to the election board offices.
“Most counties do this in some other place,” Dillingham said.
But the judge conceded to the narrowest interpretation of the law based on Bledsoe’s request.
Robert McCampbell, attorney for Stiles, requested that the recount be completed in one day, even if it goes past 5 p.m.
“We want to get them all counted,” he said.
Bledsoe said he has a social engagement after 5 p.m. and the judge expressed concern about overtime for the court reporter and other courthouse staff.
The parties decided to discuss the issue later as counting progresses and the time element involved becomes more clear.
The hearing on irregularities will be addressed later as well. Stiles’ attorney said they want the matter resolved as expeditiously as possible.
The judge said the law stipulates that the hearing be set for not less than three and not more than 10 days, but that there is a weeklong divorce hearing that has been set for six months that must be taken into consideration.
Because the parties agreed the ballots had been secure and the recount could occur, it is unclear how the alleged irregularities might legally affect the outcome of the race.