(June 29, 2006) -- On June 28, the LB City Clerk's office completed its first day's hand-recount of ballots in the 5th district City Council race...and Gerrie Schipske, the City Clerk's certified winner, appeared to widen her margin over 5th district incumbent Jackie Kell to at least 176 votes in the individual examination and recounting of ballots requested by Kell.
At day's end, the hand recounting of ballots in 25 of 45 precincts had been completed. The City Clerk's rulings on 161 ballots were challenged, most by Kell, including 88 ballots with Kell's name written-in but without the candidate choice bubble filled in.
Under state law, completing the candidate choice bubble is required for a vote to count in all races, not just write-ins,. The LB City Clerk (applying that state law) doesn't count ballots for Kell if the bubble was left blank.
City Clerk determined that seven ballots in one precinct had bubbles erroneously filled in (in blue ink) by a part time election worker...and the Clerk deducted these from Kell's total (since the machine previously read them as voted for Kell). Thus, Kell's total has dropped by 7 and by our unofficial count, Schipske's lead over Kell has widened to at least 176 votes (169 + 7).
Depending on what the remaining ballots show, it's been speculated that lawyers for Kell might challenge the City Clerk's certification of Schipske as the winner in federal court, possibly claiming the state law or the way it was applied unfairly cost Kell the election.
Ns, Schipske noted that the precincts counted first (at Kell's request) were those Kell won...and based on the first day's result, Schipske was cautiously optimistic that the numbers are mathematically running against Kell overturning the result.
Ms. Schipske has also challenged roughly six ballots with Kell's name written in with one color and the bubble completed in another color pen (which the machines counted for Kell and the City Clerk let stand).
The hand recount is expected to conclude today (June 29)...after which Kell and her lawyers will decide what to do next. Two-term Councilwoman Kell (vice-Mayor for the past two years) ran a write-in campaign to retain office under term limits.