Former state Sen. Don Benton isn’t ready give up on his bid for the Clark County Council just yet. Earlier this week, Benton formally requested a partial recount in the District 5 race.
Benton asked for a manual recount in 12 of the 96 precincts voting in the District 5 race after losing to Ridgefield resident Sue Marshall in the November general election. Marshall won with 51.22 percent of votes cast to Benton’s 48.41 percent.
Benton said he requested the recount after “data specialists” discovered inconsistencies in the election results. Benton would not disclose who those experts were, however.
“The election is close, it’s 1,200 votes. We found multiple anomalies in terms of how the votes were counted, and when you compare the vote to the primary vote, it’s the only district in Clark County that reversed the primary results,” Benton said Friday.
Benton said seeing those kinds of changes in the most conservative district in the county gave him cause for concern, so he decided to request the partial recount.
A review of the precinct totals published on the elections website showed 12 precincts where Benton received more votes than Marshall in the August primary but fewer votes than Marshall in the general election. There were also six precincts in which Benton received fewer votes than Marshall in the primary but more votes in the general election. In no precinct did either candidate receive fewer votes in the general election than in the primary election.
County Auditor Greg Kimsey said those kinds of changes at the precinct level are to be expected because each election draws different voters, and voters don’t always vote the same between the primary and general elections.
“They’re two different events,” Kimsey said.
After the recount application was submitted to the county elections office, the Clark County Canvassing Board met Friday morning to schedule the partial recount. The recount will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday and is expected to be finished by Friday. County Auditor Greg Kimsey said a total of 9,471 ballots will be manually counted. Final recount results will be posted online at https://clark.wa.gov/elections/results.
The county elections office already performs a manual test count of ballots during each election. For the general election, the U.S. Senate race was selected as the test race with 600 ballots randomly selected and counted by hand then compared against the machine results. That test was performed on Nov. 9, and no errors were found.
Kimsey also said the elections office does check for voting anomalies.
“Elections Director Cathie Garber prepares what is officially referred to as the anomaly report, and she did that analysis and did not find any anomalies,” Kimsey said.
Asking for the manual recount will also benefit voters, Benton said.
“There’s been a lot of controversy around elections, and I think this is a great opportunity for a relatively small price to verify the machines are accurately counting our vote. I think all Clark County citizens want to know that, whether they’re Democrat or Republican. We want people to have faith in the system because if they don’t, then they don’t turn out,” Benton said.
According to Benton, that’s already been happening. He said 40,000 fewer Republicans voted in the 2022 general election than voted in 2020.
Benton said he doesn’t necessarily expect the outcome of the election to change unless the recount shows errors in the machine tabulation. He also said a full recount isn’t needed to uncover any inconsistencies in the machine results.
“We would get the answer from 10 precincts the same as we would from 100 precincts,” Benton said.