County vote recount today

Published 9:57 pm Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Elections officials across the state are in unchartered territory as they begin an unprecedented primary recount in the Republican race for governor.

Escambia County elections and Republican party officials will begin a recount of local votes at 8:30 a.m. today in courtroom No. 3 in the Escambia County Courthouse, Probate Judge Emilie Mims said.

“This has been a difficult situation,” she said. “Everyone is feeling their way through it.”

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Candidate Tim James, who came in third — just 167 votes behind second- place finisher Robert Bentley — has requested the recount in all 67 counties. His campaign must foot the bill. Bradley Byrne was the first- place finisher.

Mims said she has hired 10 poll workers to assist with the recount, which will involve running all of the Republican ballots through the machines again.

The county’s Republican party and the probate judge’s office will have oversight, Mims said.

GOP Chairman Mike Hubbard said Monday he hopes the recount will be completed by today.

“We have consistently followed the Secretary of State’s guidelines relating to a recount, and we will continue to do so until this recount is resolved,” Hubbard said. ‘Our involvement in this process is simply to ensure fairness and transparency so that the integrity of our election process is preserved. We respect Tim’s decision to move forward and will not impede his request for a full recount.”

Mims noted that the recount won’t change the names on the July 13 Republican primary runoff ballot.

Attorney General Troy King issued an opinion Friday that states that the recount can only offer a basis for a challenge to the results of the primary runoff.

Although the recount could still find James in third place, Bryan Sanders, campaign manager for Bentley, said the recount is, at best, unreliable.

“Under Alabama law, an automatic recount in a general election changes the results of an election; a petition-based recount in a primary can only be used as evidence in an election contest to follow the primary runoff,” Sanders said. “This is largely because an automatic general election recount is administered by trained and qualified election professionals whereas a petition-based recount is administered by untrained volunteers and is this considered to be less accurate and less reliable.”

The question of reliability was further put into question Tuesday as news of unsealed ballots in Jefferson County was reported by The Associated Press. Sanders said that report continues to cast doubt on the reliability of such a recount currently underway across the state.

Sanders said the report makes it more difficult for his office to accept the accuracy of the recount being conducted across the state.

“The AP report confirming irregularities in the Jefferson County recount process makes it difficult to have confidence in this petition-based recount going forward,” Sanders said. “The AP report of irregularities in Jefferson County confirms our position that a petition-based recount administered by untrained volunteers is less accurate and less reliable than the original count administered by qualified election professionals sworn to uphold the Constitution of Alabama and of the United States. Any discrepancies between the total number of votes cast in the recount and cast on election night need to be fully explained and understood or it will be impossible to have any confidence in the accuracy of the recount.”

Kerry Whipple Bean contributed to this report.