Recount costs add up for Benton Township

A poll worker feeds a test ballot through a tabulator Monday during a recount session in the Jury Assembly Room in the Berrien County Courthouse. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

A poll worker feeds a test ballot through a tabulator Monday during a recount session in the Jury Assembly Room in the Berrien County Courthouse. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON TOWNSHIP — The process of recounting hundreds of ballots can be costly.

That was the case for Benton Township this week when three challengers filed petitions for a recount at the Berrien County Courthouse.

Treasurer Debbie Boothby reported the township will pay for nearly $1,000 in expenses for the recount.

For the nearly six hours worth of work, the township will pay the Berrien County Board of Canvassers $55 in per diem payments. With four canvassers that comes to $220. The township must also pay an additional $68 in mileage.

The big charge for the township doesn’t go to the county.

Boothby said the township will pay $700 for the work their poll workers and township employees did Monday.

“There were seven poll workers, but there were also three township employees,” Boothby said. “That money will come out of the general fund, which is funded through taxpayer dollars.”

The price of the recount also made its way back to petitioners.

Each petition was filed separately Aug. 5 after votes were verified a few days earlier. 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. Barbara 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, called for all six precincts and absentee votes for the supervisor race to be recounted.

All three candidates had to place a deposit as a filing fee for the petitions. Since the recount did not change the outcome of the primary election, all three lost the deposit they put down.

Berrien County Elections Administrator James Finkley said the county normally charges $25 per precinct depending on how close the race is for each petitioner. However, the deposit can be steeper the farther back a candidate is in votes.

“We follow the state guidelines on pricing and that varies on the closeness of the race,” Finkley said. “The county charges $125 per precinct if the official count shows them losing by more than 50 votes or a certain percentage. If it’s closer than that, it’s $25.”

Dortch, who petitioned to have only the absentee ballots recounted, paid $125. Meeks, who also petitioned to have the absentee ballots recounted, paid $125.

Taylor finished fewer than 50 votes behind White and only had to pay $25 per precinct, Finkley said. However, because Taylor petitioned for all six of the township’s precincts to be recounted – along with the absentee ballots – Taylor had to pay $175.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Aug. 31, 2016)
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