The fate of two contested races in the November General Election is in the hands of the Starke Circuit Court. Starke County Republican Party Chair Brenda Stanojevic filed a recount petition in the 4th District Council seat on behalf of candidate Don White. Democrat Pam Stalbaum edged him by two votes in the contest for the open seat currently held by Marvin McLaughlin. That district is comprised of the four Wayne Township precincts as well as the one in Railroad Township. Incumbent Democrat Railroad Township Trustee Roger Chaffins Sr. is also seeking a recount after losing to Republican Mandy Thompson by three votes.
Starke Circuit Judge Kim Hall will appoint a three-person recount commission, consisting of one Democrat, one Republican and one person familiar with the electronic voting machines used to conduct the election. They will review the procedures and vote totals and present a report to the judge. State law gives him until Dec. 20 to reach a decision, but he has the power to order an extension should more time be needed.
The judge will order all ballots cast and voting machines used in the four Wayne Township precincts and the one used in Railroad Township be impounded in order to preserve the integrity of the data for that commission’s review. Clerk Evelyn Skronski says the sheriff will lock them in the courthouse safe.
Skronski notes all in-person votes are cast on electronic machines, which lessens the likelihood of a clerical error due to hand counting. Absentee votes are sorted by precinct and fed through the machines so they can be electronically counted as well. She adds one provisional ballot cast in the Nov. 4 election was deemed eligible. It did not affect the outcome of either of these contests, though, as it was cast in Center Township.
A total of 1,272 machine-counted and 206 absentee votes were cast in the Starke County Council District 4 race. In Railroad Township 317 machine and 32 absentee votes were tallied.
Skronski says this is the first recount in Starke County since the current electronic voting machines were put into use in 2003. The last recount occurred in 2002 and also involved candidates for the District 4 seat. Then-incumbent Councilman Bruce Fingerhut emerged victorious in that recount over his opponent.
This year incumbent Oregon-Davis School Board President Christopher Lawrence edged his opponent Annette M. Ferch by three votes. She opted not to pursue a recount in that contest.
Read the state law pertaining to the recount process here: https://iga.in.gov/legislative/laws/2014/ic/titles/003/articles/012/chapters/006/.