A recount of the Ward County commissioners race will commence Monday at the county courthouse.
Jim Lee posted a bond with auditor Devra Smestad's office Thursday morning, a necessary requirement to challenge the final ballot numbers from the Nov. 6 general election. Lee and Shelly Weppler, both challengers, are separated by 81 votes for the third and final open seat on the commission.
"I just hope my lead will hold. I've got my fingers crossed that it will be confirmed through the recount," said Weppler. "It's not over until it's over. That's been my position from the beginning, since election night."
Weppler's 74-vote lead from election night increased to 81 following canvassing board action earlier this week. The official tally has Weppler leading Lee 11,172 to 11,091. Had the lead remained at 75 votes or less an automatic recount would have been triggered. The threshold to do so is half of one percent of the votes received by the leading vote getter. The leading vote getter was Alan Walter with 15,006 votes.
According to Smestad, Lee posted a bond in excess of the estimated $1,525 cost of the recount. That fee that would have been waived if the race was a mere six votes closer.
"I really don't know what to expect with the recount," said Lee. "There seemed to be irregular reporting on the night of the sixth with the number of precincts reporting. I don't really know what happened. If I lose, I lose. At least I'll know it's properly executed."
Lee, a former member of the commission, has never before been involved in a recount as a candidate. However, he was on the recount board twice while serving as chair of the commission. The experience gives him some insight into what can occur during a recount.
"It is hard to know what's going to happen. It could be a big swing one way or the other way, or no swing at all," said Lee.
The recount procedure begins with the random selection of 50 ballots. Those test ballots are checked for election worker initials and then scanned to compare results obtained by a hand count to the results of the ballot scanning machines. Once it is determined the scanners are working properly, the process of checking more than 25,600 ballots will begin. Four election workers have responsibility of examining each ballot.
"Jim or Shelly, or their representatives, can say no to questionable marks on the ballots," explained Smestad. "If they question a ballot, we will set them aside. The approved ballots will be run through four scanners, the same process as if an election day."
Smestad estimates the recount could take up to three days. Ballots questioned are subject to review by a recount board. The recount board consists of state's attorney Rozanna Larsen, commission chairman John Fjeldahl and county recorder Betty Braun.
"They are similar to the canvassing board. They will review challenged ballots and can review denied ballots during the canvassing," said Smestad.
Both Lee and Weppler indicated either they or a representative will attend the recount, which is scheduled to be conducted in the Ex-Serviceman's Room of the courthouse.