Right now, there’s still one pesky recount that needs to be taken care of: the race for circuit clerk in Calhoun County.
Calhoun County Commissioner Eli Henderson narrowly beat Missy Hall on election night earlier this month, picking up 115 more votes than Hall for the clerk’s seat, which will be vacated by incumbent Ted Hooks next year. Under state law, the slim margin of victory — less than one-half of one percent — requires an automatic recount within 72 hours of the certification of results, which will happen Wednesday.
Calhoun County Probate Judge Alice Martin said county officials are preparing to go ahead with the recount Thursday.
For a recount, all the ballots cast in the election must be reprocessed through balloting machines under the supervision of election officials including the county sheriff and probate judge, and typically someone representing the candidates. Martin said for the recount, the county will have 20 poll workers and 10 machines to go over the results at the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office, starting at 8 a.m.
Henderson said he would “probably” go to the recount, but said he’ll have to attend after Thursday’s scheduled County Commission meeting
Because the circuit clerk race is a state-level position, the state covers the recount costs.
County recounts aren’t rare, said Julie Sinclair, the elections attorney for the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office. Most election years tend to see one or two recounts for local races such as probate judge or county commission seats, she said. Statewide races are a little scarcer, with the Calhoun County circuit clerk’s race the only recount in the last six years, according to the secretary of state’s office data.
“County-wide races are usually a lot closer than state races or, obviously, presidential races,” Sinclair said. “The smaller number of voters typically makes things tighter.”
Hall said the tight race gives her hope she might still pull ahead in the recount Thursday.
“I hear the machines are pretty reliable, but I’m still optimistic,” Hall said. “You never know what’s going to happen.”
History isn’t on her side. Even rarer than state election recounts are recounts that change the election result. Sinclair said in the past 25 years, she could only recall one election in Alabama turned over by recount: a sheriff’s race in Jefferson County in 2000.
In that election, an initial automatic recount didn’t end up changing the results, but the election wound up going to the courts, where officials counted each ballot by hand, one-at-a-time – a process that took weeks.
If something similar happened in Calhoun County, the costs would have to be paid locally, Sinclair said.
“At that point it’s usually a machine error, and the county didn’t set the machine up properly,” Sinclair said. “So the cost would be on the county’s end.”
But usually, it doesn’t get that far.
“The elections were generally pretty straightforward, which isn’t surprising for Alabama,” Sinclair said. “We’re not Ohio or Florida, thank God, or else I think I’d have a different job.”
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.