Friday, March 28, 2014

Cliffhangers continue in 13th, 15th Subcircuit races

Updated after editing.

According to the Cook County Clerk's website, 15 votes currently separate Judge Chris Lawler and Michael B. Barrett in the not-yet-concluded race for the Sterba vacancy in the 15th Subcircuit.

The only Republican race in the county also turned into a cliffhanger, with John Curry holding a 78-vote lead over Gary W. Seyring in the race for the Iosco vacancy in the 13th Subcircuit, according to the latest figures posted on Cook County Clerk David Orr's website.

Neither race is, technically, over. In fact, absentee votes postmarked before midnight on March 17 will still be counted if they are received by April 1. As a practical matter, especially in this low-turnout election, this should result in very few, if any, additional votes being counted -- perhaps one or two in transit from Afghanistan or some other far-flung place where American military personnel are deployed -- but these few votes would presumably not be enough to knock either Lawler or Curry from their narrow leads.

Once the April 1 deadline passes, the Cook County Clerk's office has until April 8 to 'certify' the election results. One source contacted by FWIW expects the Clerk to wait until April 8 for this purpose; another stressed that April 8 is the last day on which certification can take place, and the Clerk may certify the results sooner.

The clock does not begin ticking on a recount until the results are certified.

Readers who do not specialize in election law may be surprised to learn that a demand for a recount does not result in a recount, at least not automatically.

Procedurally, the candidate interested in a recount will seek a "discovery recount," targeting specific precincts where the candidate believes there were identifiable irregularities or the results were tabulated incorrectly. According to one source consulted by FWIW, there is a $10 per precinct fee collected by the Clerk for this purpose. The campaign seeking a recount must provide staffing for the recount; the other candidate is permitted to have observers present. As a practical matter, according to my source, only paper ballots can be retabulated (by running them through the counting machine again). There is no practical way to review or recount votes recorded on a touch screen.

FWIW has been informed that the deadline for filing a request for a discovery recount is April 14.

The results of the discovery recount would provide the basis for any election challenge petition filed in the Circuit Court. This must be filed within a very short time after the results are certified (FWIW has been told the deadline may be as few as 10 or or as many as 30 days after the results have been certified. I have not been able to independently verify which deadline is correct. Either way, there is very limited time to act.)

The selection of precincts for the discovery recount is apparently the most crucial factor in determining whether an election challenge has a chance of success. A candidate may not be able to successfully argue that x votes picked up in a discovery recount of 25% of the precincts means that 4x votes would be 'found' if all the votes were recounted.

FWIW has reached out to sources within each of the four campaigns that might be concerned about recounts in the last few days. Under the circumstances, it is hardly surprising that I've not heard back from either the Seyring or Barrett campaigns. They have enough to do right now, if they are seriously investigating whether to pursue a recount. The John Curry campaign has claimed victory in the 13th Subcircuit race. Sources within the Lawler campaign have responded, expressing confidence that Judge Lawler's lead will hold up in his race, but no one would speak for the record.

Bottom line here: There are no recounts demanded, yet, in either the 13th or 15th Subcircuits. There may be a recount sought in either or both of these races -- or not. We'll know soon enough.

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