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Attorney’s race to see hand recount (KS)
The Morning Sun. November 12, 2008. By KEVIN FLAHERTY

GIRARD — Close to 16,000 votes will be recounted by hand in the upcoming days in a Crawford County Attorney’s race separated by just 14 votes.

Incumbent Crawford County Attorney John Gutierrez, D-Cherokee, told Crawford County Clerk Don Pyle that he would proceed with a hand recount before giving Pyle $2,500 to partially fund the bond needed for the recount. The Crawford County Democrats will also help with funding the bond. If the outcome of the election is changed, and Gutierrez emerges as the victor, Crawford County would pick up the expense of the recount.

Right now, Gutierrez trails challenger Michael Gayoso Jr., R-Frontenac, by 14 votes.

“The reason for doing that is not just for myself, but for my staff,” Gutierrez said. “I have nine employees to think about. It’s also at the request of the Democratic Party to do that. We talked about it at lunch, and the public needs to have confidence in those machines and a hand count will see how good those machines work.

“There’s always going to be some difference,” Gutierrez said. “But if it’s really close, I think that helps solidify the use of those optical counters and shows that the logic was corrected in those precincts where it messed up.”

“(The recount) is for two reasons,” Don Rohrbaugh, Crawford County Democratic Party vice-chairman, said. “One, he’s a Democrat ... and we back our Democratic people. For two, we felt it was needed in order to restore faith in the machines.”

But John Minton, Crawford County Republican Party chairman, said a Gutierrez victory would cast more doubt on the machines.

“In a hand recount, you’re not going to gain 14 votes. If you do, you’ve got a massive problem,” Minton said. “It’s his right to pursue this ... but I don’t see the outcome changing.

“Sooner or later, you need to throw in the towel when you’ve lost. But I can see where they’re coming from.”

Gayoso said he hoped the count would “put everything to bed.”

“We’re still extremely pleased where we’re at,” Gayoso said. “In terms of highs and lows, this doesn’t change that at all. I’m going to keep going forward.

“Obviously, that’s his right, his prerogative,” Gayoso said. “It’s his money.”

Pyle estimated that a hand recount would cost between $3,500 and $4,000. He projected that volunteers would be paid $100 per day, and estimated that 16 volunteers would be needed. Those 16 people would be divided into four, four-person units. Each unit would include one Democrat and one Republican reading the result aloud, while another Democrat and Republican would keep separate tallies.

Pyle said he would recommend holding the recount on Saturday and Sunday. Crawford County Commissioners will make a decision when to hold the recount during their meeting on Friday.

“Hopefully we could complete it over two days,” Pyle said. “I look forward to finishing up this entire election session in the near future.”

But John Minton, Crawford County Republican Party chairman, said putting the event on a weekend made it more difficult to drum up volunteers.

“We’ll get the best judges we can, but it’s an awful lot to ask people to give up a weekend,” Minton said. “People are out of town, or they have plans. I’ve been calling people like crazy.

“It’s unfair to throw it on us that quickly,” Minton said. “I know they have to get this done, but it’s just not a good deal for everyone.”

The decision for a hand recount quickly followed the canvassing of a machine recount Wednesday morning at the Crawford County Courthouse. That recount was called by the county because of a programming error which threw off the votes in three Pittsburg precincts.

Fourteen was the magic number at Wednesday’s canvassing — Gayoso held a 14-vote lead heading into the day, and after 31 advance ballots were counted, Gayoso and Gutierrez each collected 14 votes. Three people didn’t vote on the attorney’s race.

That kept Gayoso’s lead at 14, a margin that Minton said should be too large to overcome.

“We did the math, and we feel like they’re 100 percent accurate right now. The votes went to where they should have gone,” Minton said. “If he had a single-digit lead, it would be one thing, but if the race turns over, it shows our electronic voting process has an unacceptable margin of error.”

Rohrbaugh said he didn’t expect to challenge any provisional ballots that weren’t counted. Both the Republicans and Democrats asked for, and received, a person-by-person list of rejected provisional voters Tuesday.

“I don’t know if there’s any legal challenge we can make there,” Rohrbaugh said.

Gutierrez said he was ready to pursue the hand recount.

“It’s not over until it’s over,” Gutierrez said. “We’ll see what happens from here.”

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