Clerk: Baldwin’s recount cost $3,900

Posted 11/25/16

Independent candidate Cindy Baldwin — who demanded that the votes be counted again in her race against Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody — must pay $500; Park County government must cover all the other costs.

The recount confirmed that Coe won handily, …

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Clerk: Baldwin’s recount cost $3,900


A Monday recount of the state Senate District 18 race cost more than $3,900 — mostly because it took over 130 hours of staff time, says Park County Clerk Colleen Renner.

Independent candidate Cindy Baldwin — who demanded that the votes be counted again in her race against Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody — must pay $500; Park County government must cover all the other costs.

The recount confirmed that Coe won handily, defeating Baldwin by more than 14 percentage points and 1,400 votes.

The recount again found that Baldwin had received 4,256 votes. Coe, meanwhile, lost four from the original count, dropping to 5,678 votes. Rounded to the nearest tenth of a percent, Coe continued to have 56.8 percent of the vote to Baldwin’s 42.6 percent, but the gap between the candidates did narrow by 0.034 percentage points.

Coe said Baldwin made a “shameful decision” to request a recount given the wide difference; he said his opponent had questioned the integrity of the clerk’s office.

Baldwin said she’d generally been fine with the original results, but requested the recount at the urging of some of her supporters, who felt “the numbers didn’t seem right.”

“You can question the system; that’s another one of our rights,” Baldwin said of her request on Saturday.

Wyoming elections officials must conduct a recount if a race is within 1 percentage point, but outside of that, they’re extremely rare. A candidate must submit a sworn statement alleging there was “fraud or error” (which Baldwin did) to get a recount of a race where the candidates were more than a point apart.

The clerk’s office hired 10 temporary election judges to conduct Monday’s recount. Their primary job was to feed the thousands of ballots into 10 voting machines set up in the old Cody jail.

Baldwin and her attorney, Drake Hill of Cheyenne, had asked for a hand count of the ballots, but that request was rejected; Renner said she doesn’t know how long that would have taken.

Monday’s process — from securely transporting all the ballots to the jail to running them through the machines, to tabulating the results — started around 8 a.m. and ended around 2:30 p.m.

Just like the judges who worked on Election Day, the workers received $10 per hour for their 6 1/2 hours of work, plus $30 for lunch and 54 cents per mile of travel if they lived more than 10 miles from the courthouse. That cost the county $1,051.52, Renner said.

In addition, Renner said she and five other county staffers spent 131.5 hours preparing for and conducting the recount over the last week; they were led by elections deputy Teecee Barrett’s 36 hours.

“I think sometimes people don’t realize the work that’s involved in doing an election,” Renner said.

Her staff got to the courthouse at 6:30 a.m. Monday, she said.

She calculated that the recount used $2,900 worth of county labor, bringing the total cost to $3,940.77.

In a Tuesday news release announcing her estimates, Renner noted anyone is welcome to watch when elections staffers prepare and test the voting machines before each election.

“This public testing of the voting machines is intended to provide transparency of and familiarity with the election process,” Renner said in the release.

As for why Coe lost four votes in the recount, three ballots that had originally been counted as votes for Coe became undervotes in the recount — that is, were read as being blank the second time around; Renner said that was “possibly due to the voting machines’ difficulty reading ballots where the circles were not fully filled in.”

The fourth vote that Coe lost went entirely missing due to some unknown error (10,480 ballots were recorded in the original results, 10,479 in the recount). Renner said it’s possible one of the election judges didn’t notice when one of the ballots wasn’t properly counted by a voting machine.

This month’s general election brought a much wider win for Coe than the last time he had a challenger on the ballot. In the 2012 Republican primary, Coe held off tea party challenger Bob Berry by just 117 votes out of 4,195 ballots cast — a roughly 2.8 percent margin of victory.

Berry did not request a recount, but he also didn’t give up, deciding to continue his challenge to Coe by running as a write-in candidate in the general election. In that rematch, Coe defeated Berry easily, picking up around 71.4 percent of the 8,755 votes cast in November 2012.

This year, Berry helped lead a political action committee called “Republicans for Unity” that lobbied against Coe with advertisements.

Coe, who will be heading to Cheyenne for his eighth four-year term in the Senate, was unopposed in the Republican primary.

Baldwin is a registered Republican but made the general election ballot as an independent candidate. She explained in a call to KODI-AM in August that she didn’t run for the office earlier “because until I got my primary (ballot), I didn’t realize the lack of choice we had up here.”

Senate District 18 covers much of Park County, running from the Willwood south of Powell to encompass Clark, all of Cody and the northern part of Yellowstone.