By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
BENTON TOWNSHIP — Recount petitions have been filed with the Berrien County Clerk’s Office for two Benton Township primary races.
The recount petitions were filed last week to check voting totals for the supervisor and clerk positions. Clerk Carolyn Phillips and Supervisor Kevin White won their party’s nomination at the Aug. 2 ballot and currently run unopposed in November.
Down by 22 votes to challenger Barbara Meeks – with all six precincts reporting – Phillips came back to win the Democratic nomination through absentee votes. Phillips, who is in search of her sixth term as clerk, finished with nearly 80 more votes by the end of the night.
“I’m not surprised because we’ve had recounts before,” Phillips said. “It’s normal when candidates lose by smaller margins. It’s one of those things they have a right to do. But I’m not worried.”
White was also facing a close race prior to absentee votes coming in. At 1 a.m. with all precincts reporting, White held a slim eight-vote lead over challenger Joseph Taylor. White would go on to pad his lead with absentee ballots and finish ahead by 33 votes.
James Finkley, Berrien County elections administrator, said all Benton Township districts will be recounted for the supervisor race and the clerk recount will only encompass absentee ballots.
Despite the petition filings, candidates and incumbents will have to wait for the recount results.
As per the Michigan Bureau of Elections, the recount petitions must wait approval from the state office before recounts can be scheduled. Due to the Aug. 2 ballot having several state offices on it, the State Board of Canvassers must complete the state canvass before recounts can be scheduled and completed.
If the petitions are approved, they will then go toward the Berrien County Board of Election Canvassers, which is comprised of four members – two Republicans and two Democrats. The Canvassers are responsible for certifying the results of all elections in the county, as well as recounts held in any city, township, village or school district.
The date counties will be notified by the state for recount scheduling is Aug. 24.
Each petition was filed separately Aug. 5 after votes were verified a few days earlier, Finkley said.
The recount petitions were filed by three challengers. Willie Dortch, a Democrat who ran for supervisor, filed to have absentee votes counted again for the supervisor race. Meeks, who was ahead of Phillips prior to absentee votes being added, filed to have the absentee votes recounted for the clerk race.
Taylor, who was behind White by eight votes prior to absentee votes being added, is calling for all six districts and absentee votes for the supervisor race to be recounted.
Finkley said the three candidates had to place a deposit as a filing fee for the petitions. If the results of the recount changes the election results, then the deposit will be refunded. If the results are not changed, then the candidate will lose the deposit.
Dortch, Meeks, Taylor and White could not be reached for comment.