Jefferson County officials have granted a recount request filed by the Republican candidate for District Clerk who lost the election by 785 votes.
Charlie Wiggins submitted his request to County Judge Jeff Branick on Nov. 10. The judge’s office granted that request Nov. 14.
Now officials must quickly organize a committee of 60 people to oversee the recount.
On Election Day, Beaumont City Councilman Jamie Smith, the Democratic candidate, received 26,657 votes, or 50.75 percent of 52,529 total votes cast. Wiggins received 25,872 votes, or 49.25 percent of the total votes.
The difference in votes is only a margin of 1.5 percent.
However, it was not only the closeness of the race that made Wiggins want a recount, but also the way the results came in, Wiggins said in a recent interview.
“By midnight (on Election Day), it looked like we had won,” Wiggins said Nov. 11. “But as the night went on, suddenly thousands more votes came in.”
“We feel like there may have been some errors in voting,” Wiggins said. “We want to see if we can bring anything to light.”
As the Record recently reported, county officials said the large number of last minute votes that came in was due to delays at the two busiest polling locations caused by technical errors with the electronic voting machines.
The recounting task will not be an easy one, said Chief Deputy County Clerk Theresa Goodness.
“The candidate requested a hand count of all votes,” Goodness said.
That means every ballot image from every electronic voting machine will have to be printed out.
“That alone will take quite some time,” Goodness said.
She said the committees will likely begin to count the paper mailed-in ballots while the electronic images are printing.
Then each list will be searched by hand for votes cast in the district clerk’s race. If a vote is found, the result will be stated out loud and then written down.
The recount committee will be made up of 20 three-person teams from among the 109 voting precincts in Jefferson County, whose members will include county employees and others nominated by Republican and Democratic parties.
In addition, Goodness said, each candidate can have a representative on each of the 20 teams, which would bring the total number of recount committee members to 100. All the committee members will assemble at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19, at the Central Counting Station, a small building located near the Southeast Texas Regional Airport.
Because he requested the recount, Wiggins has to pay for it, and he has made a deposit of $11,000, which he said came from campaign supporters. The final cost could be higher, Goodness said.