A hearing has been set for 9 a.m. Thursday before Cleveland County District Judge Tracy Schumacher, who will take up both the recount and election irregularity matters. She could order a new House District 45 election if she finds voting irregularities occurred, state Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said.
Paula Roberts paid a $2,100 deposit to cover the cost of the recount. She may stop the recount if she is ahead after any precinct. Stiles then has the option to pay a similar amount to have the recount continue until all precincts are counted.
His attorney, Robert McCampbell, said it was “too speculative and hypothetical” on whether Stiles is prepared to pay to keep the recount going.
Paula Roberts said equipment problems plagued election workers Tuesday and slowed a count of provisional ballots and the overlooked absentee ballots Friday.
“We had hoped to have this resolved Friday afternoon, but because of equipment problems, the provisional ballots were still being counted at 5 p.m.,” she said.
Stiles said he was relieved at Friday's outcome, “except, technically, it still is not over. Now they've asked for a recount.”
History indicates that recounts never change an election outcome by more than about three votes, he said.
County election board officials began Friday's proceedings by authorizing a count of 60 absentee ballots discovered Thursday night as workers were preparing boxes for storage.
Jim Williams, executive secretary of the Cleveland County Election Board, said absentee ballots usually are opened by an automated letter opener, but on Tuesday workers saw that the automated opener was slicing ballots.
“So we assembled a team and opened them by hand,” Williams said.
In the process, 60 mail-in absentee ballots in a sealed envelope inadvertently got mixed in with empty envelopes and put into a box for storage, he said.
“This is a very unfortunate accident,” Williams said. “It's embarrassing to us, both professionally and personally. The ballots are secure. There's no doubt in my mind they are eligible ballots that should be counted.”
About 25 onlookers waited for two hours while election board officials fed first absentee ballots and then provisional ballots into a machine for a final tally. The process was slowed by ongoing problems with the scanning machine.
“When it was finished, when all was said and done,” Stiles said, “nothing changed.”