Recount favors Brooks

Published 12:37 am Thursday, November 17, 2011

Participating in a recount Wednesday in Washington are (from left) Beaufort County Board of Elections members Archie Harding and Jim Vosburgh, candidate Richard Brooks, board Chairman Tom Payne and candidate Gil Davis. (WDN Photo/Jonathan Clayborne)

Now there’s no doubt: Richard Brooks is the newest member of the Washington City Council.

In a recount, conducted Wednesday morning at the Beaufort County Board of Elections’ offices in Washington, Brooks gained one vote, finishing with 560 votes and securing the council seat it appeared he had won on Election Day.

His closest opponent, incumbent Gil Davis, who had called for the recount, retained the 556 votes he tallied on Nov. 8.

Davis had requested the recount Monday and was well within the percentage margin that allowed him to do so.

But the recount didn’t change the outcome of a race in which Brooks, a former councilman, unseated Davis, whose current term expires next month.

“I thank the ones that voted, I thank the ones that did the recount and I thank the Lord for giving me the chance to be on the City Council again,” Brooks said, adding he also was thankful for his family,  which helped him campaign.

“I didn’t have any problem with the election, but it was so close percentage-wise that I just felt it was the thing to do, ask for a recount,” Davis commented. “It was close, it was a well-run election. Richard worked hard, and I’ll support him while he’s on the council.”

The one vote Brooks gained went unread by a voting-tabulation machine on election night, advised Kellie Harris Hopkins, Beaufort County’s elections director.

The voter who filled out this ballot didn’t color in the ovals next to the candidates’ names, but instead placed check marks in the ovals alongside the names of his or her preferred office-seekers.

The check mark next to Brooks’ name was too light for the optical-scan voting machines to read. It had to be hand-eye counted, and the voter’s intent identified, by the Board of Elections.

Because of questions brought on by the check-marked ballot, the board — Chairman Tom Payne, Secretary Archie Harding and member Jim Vosburgh — took the added step of reviewing every ballot cast in Washington’s Ward 4, the precinct in which the ballot was checked.

Otherwise, ballots from all of the city’s wards were run through the machines again during the recount, which began at 10 a.m. and ended around 1:15 p.m.

“We want you comfortable in the election system,” Payne told the candidates.

Brooks’ return to the council gives Washington a black-majority council for perhaps the second time in its history.

He will serve his two-year term alongside Councilmen Bobby Roberson, Ed Moultrie, Doug Mercer and William Pitt.

Mayor Archie Jennings was unopposed in his successful re-election effort.