ELLSWORTH — Incumbent School Board candidate Abigail Miller had her win upheld after a recount finished shortly after noon Nov. 8. Miller won by a narrow margin against challenger Casey Hardwick — about one percent — on Election Day, Nov. 2. Hardwick requested the recount Nov. 5.
The recount tally was 920 votes for Miller and 887 for Hardwick, with Miller losing one vote from the recount and Hardwick’s tally remaining the same.
“I feel happiness and relief,” Miller said after City Clerk and Registrar of Elections Heidi Grindle read the final numbers before councilors certified the result. While she expected a recount, Miller said the days-long wait was difficult. “That one percent was as close as it can be.”
City staff spent hours recounting ballots cast in a race for a three-year seat on the School Board. Votes cast for third candidate Joshua Dudeck, who had received 534 votes Election Day, did not have to be recounted.
At issue were the 70 “overvotes” cast in the race. An overvote is when someone votes for too many candidates. Those votes are invalid. However, state election law holds that if a selection is made and the voter also fills in the oval for a write-in candidate, but provides no name, the vote goes to the candidate selected because the voter’s intent is clear. However, the ballot counting machine rejects those ballots.
Dozens of ballots had been re-issued for voter mistakes on Election Day and many ballots were re-sent to absentee voters for voter errors, Grindle said.
The recount brought a portion of city staff to the council chambers to count ballots, one by one, ward by ward.
During the recount as each overvote was reviewed, councilors determined voter intent on a handful where two selections were made but one was crossed out or a voter selected a candidate plus filled the oval for a write-in candidate but did not provide a name. Councilor Robert Miller, married to Abigail Miller, did not participate in the recount.