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August wins primary after recount

September 29, 2010 | 08:44 AM
Elkhorn — Adam Gibbs may be the unluckiest man in Walworth County. And now his bid to be the Republican on the ballot for the 32nd State Assembly District race appears to be over.

Following the Sept. 14 primary, Gibbs entered the recount with a slim four-vote advantage over Tyler August in the six-candidate race.

But, by the evening of Sept. 26, after a five-day recount, the lead had drifted away, giving August an even slimmer three-vote victory, according to totals released by the Walworth and Kenosha county boards of canvassers.

The vote total turnaround in the recount came about through improperly marked absentee ballot envelopes, the board of canvassers determining voters' intent benefitting August on three ballots, and apparently just plain bad luck for Gibbs.

Final figures from both counties show August winning the district 1,760-1,757. August's winning margin came in Kenosha County, where he won the town of Wheatland by 10, 68-58. Gibbs won Walworth County by seven, 1,699-1,692.

Gibbs, 24, and August, 27, were the youngest two candidates on the ballot.

The recount results were certified late Monday by the state Government Accountability Board.

By state law, Gibbs now has five business days to file an appeal in circuit court, said Reid Magney, accountability board spokesman. An attempt to reach Gibbs before the deadline Tuesday was unsuccessful.

Contacted Monday morning, when the recount results were still unofficial, Gibbs said he was still considering an appeal of the recount in court, but he seemed to be leaning away from that.

"At this point, it wouldn't benefit Tyler, it wouldn't benefit me, it wouldn't benefit the Republican Party," Gibbs said of an appeal.

Walworth County Clerk Kim Bushy said that Gibbs lost three votes through a draw down of four absentee ballots.

Absentee ballots are delivered in envelopes that must be signed by the voter and a witness, Bushey said. When the ballots are counted, the ballots are separated from the envelopes to preserve the voters' anonymity.

Ideally, the number of properly signed envelopes will equal the number of absentee ballots counted. In the case of the recount, four envelopes were found to be either unsigned or unwitnessed, Bushey said.

That meant four absentee ballots had to be withdrawn at random, Bushey said. In that case, Gibbs was very unlucky, because he lost three votes through the draw down, while August lost none. The fourth ballot withdrawn was for Dan Necci, who finished with 1,204 votes.

Meanwhile, August gained a vote through an absentee ballot that was initially rejected because of an over-voted office, not the 32nd District, on the ballot, Bushey said.

But the state requires that voter intent be ascertained during a recount, and August was clearly marked on that ballot, Bushey said.

Voter intent also gained August another vote on a ballot on which the voter had marked candidates' names with "X"es , rather than filling in the ovals as instructed.

In this case, the "X" fell between the ovals for August and candidate John Finley. The center point of the X was closer to August's oval than Finley's, leading the board of canvassers to decide the voter intended to cast the ballot for August, Bushey said.

According to a spokeswoman at the Kenosha County Clerk's office, August also gained a vote in the town of Wheatland, where a voter clearly check-marked his name on a ballot that had originally been rejected.

Contacted Monday afternoon, August said he was spending his time reaching out to supporters to get them re-energized for the Nov. 2 general election, which is just five weeks away.

All of the candidates who ran in the 32nd District Republican Primary are from Walworth County. The town of Wheatland, where August got his winning margin, is at the extreme east end of the district. But August said he spent some time there campaigning.

"I guess it paid off," he said.

August held out an olive branch to Gibbs, saying his closest opponent was "very civil and very professional" during the recount. August said that about 3 p.m Sunday, when the recount was completed and the final numbers turned in August's favor, Gibbs shook his hand and congratulated him.

August said the decision to appeal is entirely up to Gibbs. "He has that right," August said. On the other hand, August said he was confident in the recount process.

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