Gabel considering seeking recount after losing House race by 15 votes

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story did not have final vote tallies in the 85th District race.

Craig Gabel is pondering whether to call for a recount after Thursday’s official count in the Republican primary election left him 15 votes behind his opponent in a state House race.

“I don’t know,” said Gabel, a Wichita businessman. “It’s so close. I’m consulting with my experts.”

He has until 5 p.m. Friday to make up his mind. The filing fee for a recount is $1,700, said Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman.

Before Thursday’s canvassing of provisional ballots, Gabel trailed Rick Lindsey by 13 votes in the 96th District. That margin stretched to 15 after the provisional ballots were included, giving Lindsey a total of 483 to Gabel’s 468.

Brandon Whipple is the Democrat opponent in the general election Nov. 6.

The 96th District was one of five races or issues that were within 27 votes going into Thursday’s canvassing.

None of the results changed in three state House races. But Sedgwick County’s provisional votes broke a tie and allowed the Andover school district’s local option budget issue to pass by two votes. A precinct committeeman’s race remained in a tie, so a name was pulled out of a hat to determine the winner.

“Every vote really does count,” County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn said at the election office after he and the other four commissioners finished certifying the Aug. 7 primary results.

Of the 1,038 provisionals cast, 848 were allowed to be counted because they met election law requirements, Lehman said. Voters cast provisional ballots whenever there is a question about an issue, such as an address or name change and now photo identification.

The county had 28 provisional ballots cast because the voter didn’t have the photo ID as required by a state law that took effect this year. Seven of those voters later presented their ID either in person, fax or e-mail to the election office, so their ballots counted, Lehman said.

Two of the 28 declined to present their photo IDs at the polling site to protest the law, she said.

County election officials may choose to do the canvassing on the Monday or Thursday after the election. Lehman said she picked Thursday to give those with voter ID issues more time to get their ID verified.

“We don’t like to see anyone’s vote not count,” Lehman said.

In the county’s only other election this year, the Ambassador Hotel referendum in February, 28 provisionals were cast because of ID problems. Nine voters in that election later had their ID verified and their ballots counted.

Some other reasons why ballots are considered provisional are that the voters weren’t registered or went to the wrong polling site. Provisionals for unregistered voters aren’t counted.

One person had to vote a provisional ballot by mail because the first mail-in ballot sent to the address was thrown away by the grandchildren, Lehman said.

The accepted provisional ballots brought the county’s turnout to 54,735 voters, which bumped the turnout percentage up two-tenths to 20.6.

The primary also saw 4,600 write-in votes. Advance voting, whether in person or by mail, was 21 percent.

“That’s good for a primary,” Lehman said.

In the 2008 general election, 57 percent of the votes were cast in advance.

In the other two state House races that were close:

•  Democrat primary, 85th District. Rebecca Armstrong added one vote from provisional ballots. She defeated Barry D. Stanley with a total of 214 votes to 189, including Butler County's votes. Armstrong faces Republican Steve Brunk in November.

•  Republican primary, 97th District. Incumbent Les Osterman won by 27 votes after both he and Jeff Blubaugh added 13 votes from the provisionals. Osterman finished with 774 votes to Blubaugh’s 747. Osterman faces Democrat Dale Swenson in November.

In the 211th Precinct committeeman race, Ronald Baldwin Davis and Craig Allen Harms finished in a tie with 49 votes. Neither received any votes from the provisionals. So their names were placed in a black top hat, and one of the commissioners drew Davis’ name to make him the winner.

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