Defeated Clark County Council candidate Don Benton, victor Sue Marshall, Auditor Greg Kimsey, and dozens of election workers and observers crowded into the county elections office meeting room Friday as a partial recount requested by Benton wrapped up.
After a manual count of nearly 9,500 ballots, Marshall remained the winner in the council’s District 5. She has already assumed the office.
“The primary purpose of the recount was to verify the accuracy of the machine,” Benton said Friday. “And we have done that. I think that’s an important message to Clark County, and that is that our machine that does the counting does an accurate job.”
Benton requested a manual recount for 12 of the 96 precincts voting in the District 5 race shortly after the general election results were certified Nov. 29.
“Now voters can feel confident that their vote will count,” Benton said. “They just need to get to the polls.”
In an interview last week, Benton said he requested the recount after “data specialists” discovered some anomalies when comparing the general election results to primary results, adding that District 5 was the only district in which that occurred. He did not specify who the “data specialists” were nor speak to their qualifications.
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, but those were not part of the recount Benton requested.
Kimsey estimated that 15 elections office workers spent around 245 worker-hours conducting the recount, which will be billed to Benton.
During the manual recount, two additional ballots were discovered. According to Kimsey, the ballots were initially rejected by the scanning machine and should have been re-scanned but were missed. Both ballots, which contained votes for Marshall, will be added to the District 5 totals and certified by the canvassing board on Tuesday.
Benton commended Assistant Elections Supervisor Rich Cooper and all the elections office staff for their hard work.
“Rich and his crew obviously do a very thorough job in making sure that votes, as much as humanly possible, are counted fairly and accurately,” Benton added. “I’m very impressed with the elections team.”
Marshall, who was sworn in Nov. 30 to replace Richard Rylander Jr., said she has been focused on completing her training in Olympia this week and getting ready for next year’s challenges. She said she got a tour of the elections office during the recount, along with the equipment and processes used.
“It’s quite exhaustive, really,” Marshall said. “There’s checks and balances and checks and more checks.”
Benton wasn’t the only losing candidate to request a recount of the November general election results. Republican Joe Kent’s campaign announced on Dec. 2 that it intends to request a machine recount of all counties within Washington’s 3rd Congressional District.
Kent’s campaign said that while it believed election workers did their best to ensure a fair election, a second count is needed because of the close margin of victory and technical issues with the signature-verification software.
The Kent campaign did not respond to The Columbian’s request to clarify its concern about the software.
According to the secretary of state’s office, Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez won the race with 160,314 votes, or 50.14 percent, to Kent’s 157,685 votes, or 49.31 percent. With a margin of 2,629 votes, or 0.83 percent, an automatic recount was not required.
The Clark County Canvassing Board meets at 3 p.m. Tuesday in the elections office meeting room at 1408 Franklin St. in Vancouver. For accommodations, call Cathie Garber at 564-397-2345 or use speech-to-speech relay at 711 or 877-833-6341.