Total Recall: Recount confirms “existing form” ahead in polls

By: 
Charlie Denison and Deb Hill
News-Argus Staff

 

From left to right, Fergus County Commissioners Ross Butcher, Sandy Youngbauer and Carl Seilstad sort ballots by vote during Monday’s recount.

Photo by Jenny Gessaman

 

Ballot recount yields same outcome

 “Existing form” still the winner for City government

                       

By CHARLIE DENISON and DEB HILL

News-Argus Staff

 

Now there is an 8-vote difference.

That’s what was determined by Monday’s ballot recount in the Fergus County Commissioners’ office.

The final vote count: 1,317 for the existing commission-manager form of government and 1,309 for adoption of the commission-mayor charter plan of government.

From 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., County commissioners Carl Seilstad, Sandy Youngbauer and Ross Butcher counted vote after vote, categorizing them as “current” or “adopt.”

Those two words were easiest to say, Youngbauer said.

“We tried ‘existing’ and ‘adoption’ but those words were too hard to say that fast,” Youngbauer said.

The commissioners worked quickly, precinct-by-precinct, vote-by-vote, audibly announcing whether or not the ballot was marked “current” or “adopt.”

After every fifth vote, Fergus County Clerk and Recorder Rana Wichman and Fergus County Superintendent of Schools Rhonda Long would call out “tally,” a process Wichman said was recount protocol. Both Long and Wichman recorded the vote counts, and each of their counts had to match.

Sometimes they’d lose their place and have to start again from where they were after the last audible “tally,” but overall the process was smooth, albeit tedious.

During the four-hour recount, few from the community came by to see how the process worked. Bon Ton co-owner T.J. Greenberg, Library Board Chair Mary Frieze and City of Lewistown Finance Director Nikki Brummond were the only three members of the public present.

“I’m proud of our public servants,” Greenberg said. “And they did it all without a coffee pot present. That’s the most impressive part of all.”

A former Florida resident, Greenberg said he voted there when the infamous 2000 election took place.

“The ballot was pretty confusing,” he said. “I can see why it was a problem for some. I can’t remember how many ‘chads’ there were or what all happened there, but it was a mess.”

Having a little time off this morning, Greenberg thought he’d come by and see how this process worked.

“I’m curious,” he said, “and I was downtown, so I thought I’d see for myself.”

It didn’t take long for Greenberg to consider leaving before the final results were in.

“I thought about it once or twice,” he said. “It’s not the most exciting process.”

It appeared everyone present shared those sentiments. Once the final count was in, the first thing Wichman said to the commissioners was “thanks for sticking it out.”

 

Concern over close election leads to recount

The recount process is “valuable for election certainty,” according to Lewistown resident Jonathan Moor, whose petition started the process.

“I had heard of some people who voted who live outside the City limits, and I had heard of other people inside the City whose ballots did not include the question on the form of government,” Moor told the News-Argus Tuesday. “Because the results were so close, I thought it was important to do another count.”

Moor said if the results had been a “big landslide” for one side or the other, he would not have been as interested in double-checking the outcome.

“I just feel it is important to make sure the election is correct,” Moor added, saying he was not sure whether or not he would take it any further.

 

What’s next?

Now that the count is official, Wichman sent the results to Secretary of State Linda McCulloch and the State Board of Canvassers. All 2016 General Election results were certified Tuesday at 10 a.m.

Any further complaints or concerns regarding whether or not the election was conducted improperly would go directly into the hands of the judicial branch, in this case, the Montana Tenth Judicial District Court. 

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