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    5th Dist. Council Update:

  • Schipske Declares Victory, Ready To Begin As New 5th Dist. Councilwoman; Now Has 169 Vote Lead Over Kell
  • Incumbent Kell Confers With Lawyer; Recount, Legal Challenge Possible Depending On What Ballots Show
  • City Clerk Investigating Snafu With Some Write-In Ballots

    5th district Council election saga

    Schipske: ready to take office

    Kell & lawyer mull recount, legal challenge

    (June 21, 2006, updated June 22) -- In the latest refinement of the City Clerk's final total of polling place, absentee and provisional ballots in the 5th district Council race, attorney Gerrie Schipske now leads incumbent Councilwoman Jackie Kell by 169 votes.

    Ms. Schipske has declared victory in the race and says she's ready to take office. Kell has not conceded defeat and with her lawyer is mulling the possibility of a recount and (depending on what the write-in ballots show) a possible legal challege .

    On June 20, the candidates, their lawyers, along with reporters and City Clerk staff came to the Main Library auditorium foyer to watch machines count ballots not previously counted. By 12:30 p.m., Schipske was leading Kell by 166 votes (down from 262). On June 21, Schipske's lead became 169 votes through a manual (hand) count of 1% of the votes cast (required to be counted before an election can be certified).

    In that precinct, which may or may not be representative of others, Schipske had 54 votes; Kell had 26 votes and 10 were "Blank voted" -- meaning ballots were either not marked or containing Kellís name written in but without filling-in the adjoining "bubble," or ballots containing the name of another candidate other than Kell.

    In that precinct, the clerk found three votes had been erroneously counted as Kell votes because they didn't have Kell's name written in but had the bubble filled in.

    Meanwhile, as first reported in a June 20 front page Flash by, City Clerk Larry Herrera is looking into the circumstances surrounding a [update] part time employee used on election night [not City Clerk staffer, end update] who is believed to have erroneously (and contrary to instructions) filled in (as part of a routine ballot check, using identifiable blue ink) the write-in bubbles of some 5th district ballots that had Kell's name written-in but without the write-in "bubble" filled in by the voter.

    On June 20, City Clerk Herrera indicated that one or perhaps two boxes of ballots (roughly 200 ballots per box, with some percentage of ballots with write-ins) may be involved; the exact quantity wasn't certain...but Clerk Herrera says what happened was a miscommunication and is NOT believed to be intentional or widespread. Ms. Schipske says she believes it may have accounted for Kell closing the gap (from 262 votes to 166, now 169).

    "It is clear that I won this election...[and] it is clear from this [June 21] manual random count that the voters of the 5th District understood how to cast a legal vote for a write in candidate by writing her name and filling in the bubble as evidenced by the fact that only 1 ballot containing Kellís name was rejected because the bubble was not filled in."

    Councilwoman Kell's lawyer, Bradley Hertz, indicated on June 20 that he and his client would consider a recount so they can individually examine roughly 1,300 ballots considered "blank" (and uncounted) which may have Kell's name written-in but without the write-in bubble filled in by the voter. Depending on what a recount and ballot examination shows, a challenge in state or federal court might follow, he indicated on June 20. Mr. Hertz was unavailable for comment on June 21.

    Ms. Schipske attributed the high number of "blank voted" ballots to the fact that both she and Kell are Democrats and there are voters in the 5th District who (Schipske said in a release) could not bring themselves to vote for either candidate. "It was clear from the manual count that voters purposely chose to vote for the Mayorís race and the Board of Education race, but chose to not cast a vote in the 5th Council race."

    Ms. Schipske added, "I do hope we can now move along and complete a smooth transition so that the constituents of the 5th Council District can be represented without interruption."

    And concerning news that incumbent Kell has indicated that she may ask for a full recount with possible legal action to follow, Ms. Schipske responded: "I have retained Fredric Woocher, who is an election law expert, and more importantly, an expert in write-in election procedures. I am confident that the outcome is not going to change."

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