An automatic recount Wednesday of the Nov. 5 election confirmed Larry Sykes as the narrow winner of a seat on Toledo City Council and Robert Reichert as an Ottawa Hills village councilman — but only after the Lucas County Board of Elections added in 50 previously uncounted ballots.
The additional votes were discovered during an automatic recount of the two close races in Toledo and Ottawa Hills. election officials said. The recount initially focused on a random 5 percent sample of the county's precincts, but then was expanded to cover all paper ballots in the county after two uncounted paper ballots were found in the initial sample.
As a result, a smattering of candidates and issues received additional votes, including all 12 Toledo City Council candidates. Mr. Sykes saw his lead over incumbent Adam Martinez increase from five to six votes. The vote in the Ottawa Hills village council race stayed at 570 for Mr. Reichert and 569 for Edward Shimborske.
Meghan Gallagher, director of the elections board, said the missing votes were on ballots that had been scanned and then set aside in a separate stack, called the “deck of exceptions,” because the computer had registered an error in reading the paper ballots. The errors occurred either because the voters didn't properly fill in a circle or because the voter “over-voted,” such as voted for seven council members when they were allowed to vote for only six.
“They were found in a group. No [candidate's] position changed as a result of these ballots,” said Ms. Gallagher, who acknowledged she was not happy about the mistake, which she attributed to human error by employees whose job it was to make sure the uncounted ballots were brought to the board's attention so they could be properly scanned.
During Wednesday's board meeting the votes were added into the countywide vote and the countywide vote was re-certified by the four-member elections board, who gave no indication to the audience that the vote total for the Nov. 5 election was revised.
Dan DeAngelis, the deputy director of the board, said the paper ballots were counted by hand Monday night. He said he did not believe disciplinary action was necessary, but said there should be a review of the process.
“I’m ecstatic,” Mr. Sykes said of the final decision. “I’m just happy to finally believe it’s real. I’d like to thank everyone for exercising their right to vote, especially those five individuals.” He said he lost votes between the primary and the general election after he was attacked for what he said were untrue allegations about him wanting to outsource jobs. He said he was looking forward to working with the incoming mayoral administration.
Mr. Martinez said he was disappointed at the loss, and said he wished Mr. Sykes “the best of luck.” He said he is considering applying for the upcoming vacancy in council’s District 2 to replace Councilman D. Michael Collins, who was elected mayor.
“I really haven’t decided if I would be the best candidate for the district,” said Mr. Martinez, who lives in the Southwyck area of District 2. He said he wanted to make sure he would be doing it for the right reasons, and not just because he had lost his re-election to the at-large seat.
Council is expected to appoint a replacement for Mr. Collins on Jan. 2. That appointee would be expected to run in the primary election May 6. At least three other possible candidates for the vacancy have stepped forward — Democrats Frank Szollosi and Karen Shanahan and Republican Marcia Helman.
In other action, the elections board agreed on a 2-1 vote to consolidate its offices at 616 Jefferson Ave., known as One Lake Erie Center. The lease was negotiated by the Lucas County commissioners with owner Eyde Co. of Lansing.
Republican board member Jon Stainbrook voted against the lease, saying the elections board still had too many concerns about parking and that the 15-year commitment is too long. He also said the site is not centrally located for people who live in the western suburbs.
Democrat board member John Irish opposed delaying the vote, saying it could inconvenience the board staff in getting ready for next year’s gubernatorial election. “I trust our commissioners,” Mr. Irish said.
Democrat board member Ron Rothenbuhler also supported the lease. Republican board member Tony DeGidio abstained after losing an effort to postpone the vote until Friday.
The elections board will for the first time have all of its operations under one roof, including early voting, the warehouse, and the main office, which is in Government Center.
County Administrator Laura Lloyd-Jenkins said the lease will cost $350,000 annually for the first five years. She said it would be a savings for the county, but wasn’t sure of the current amount spent to lease space.