The process of making a final determination as to whether Jay H. Banks won the runoff for the District B seat on the New Orleans City Council took its first step Tuesday morning when officials inspected each voting machine from the district.
Banks won 131 more votes than opponent Seth Bloom out of 15,901 cast, a margin of less than 1 percent. That tally is not expected to change Tuesday morning, because the machines being inspected contain the same data that was sent to the Secretary of State’s office Saturday night to report the election results.
Instead, what is normally a routine part of certifying election tallies in this case serves as sort of a first step in Bloom’s process of inspecting the overall results, which he said Saturday night he wanted to do before conceding.
Bloom’s campaign manager, Gary Solomon Jr., also requested two other sets of information related to the machines. First, they want the list of signatures from each polling place, to verify that the tallies in each precinct are the same as the number of people who showed up to vote.
Second, they want to see the logs from the machines to determine the times when the machines were closed. Some precincts reported their results much later Saturday night than others, Solomon said, and while they understand that a precinct might have stayed open later if there was a line out the door when voting ended at 8 p.m., they simply want to verify that the normal processes were followed.
“It’s important to us to see when those machines closed to confirms that each of the polling locations ran the same way,” Solomon said. “We know that if there was a small line that something might not have closed until shortly after 8, but a lot of those precincts were reported really late. It’s just worth looking just to make sure that there was no irregularity.”
Those requests will be filled in the next days, officials said. In the meantime, if the Bloom campaign plans to seek a recount of the absentee ballots that are counted by hand, they must do so by 4:30 p.m. Wednesday as well as pay the $300 filing fee, said Clerk of Court Arthur Morrell.
While the vote tally is unlikely to change as a result of Tuesday’s inspection of the machines, the absentee ballots could provide some variance. When Kristin Gisleson Palmer defeated Nadine Ramsey for the District C seat last month, it was by a similar margin — 112 votes out of 13,811 cast, and the recount requested by Ramsey added one more vote to her column.
If requested, a recount in the District B race would likely take place Monday morning, Morrell said. If Banks remains ahead afterward but the Bloom campaign is still not ready to concede, their remaining recourse is to file a lawsuit challenging the results by 4:30 p.m. Monday, Morrell said.
“Time is of the essence,” Morrell said. “They have these close times to do this, because the official count can’t be certified until all this is over.”
Solomon said that for now, it simply makes sense to verify the total, given such a small margin out of so many thousands of votes cast.
“We just want to make sure the math is the math, before a concession,” Solomon said. “If it is, he’s very happy to support Jay and congratulate him.”
Gralen Banks, Jay Banks’ campaign manager, said that the Banks campaign was simply observing the process Tuesday morning to ensure that they had access to all the same information that the Bloom campaign is requesting.
“We trust the system. We believe that the system worked,” Banks said. “If everybody’s going to be here checking and it could possibly affect the outcome of the race, then yes, we’re going to be here when the boxes are opened and when the numbers are counted.”