It's official. Kristin Gisleson Palmer will return to her former seat on the New Orleans City Council after a recount of Saturday’s election confirmed she had bested Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey in a close and hard-fought race.
In fact, the long-shot effort to overturn the result ended up adding a single vote to Ramsey’s tally Thursday, giving Palmer a lead of 111 ballots in the race for the council's District C seat.
That leaves Palmer as the winner in the race and set to return to a seat she held from 2010 to 2014 before deciding not to run for re-election, opening the way for Ramsey to assume the seat. But energized in part by the controversy over the design of a new Canal Street ferry terminal, Palmer decided this year to challenge her successor.
State and local election officials and campaign representatives huddled over ballot-covered tables in the City Council chambers Thursday morning, pouring through stacks of votes for about two hours.
The recount process looks only at the relatively few ballots that aren’t automatically tallied by voting machines. In the District C race, that amounted to 361 ballots out of the 13,811 cast.
They included absentee votes, paper ballots and votes cast by fax or email, all of which could potentially have been miscounted during Saturday’s election or rejected by the equipment that scans them into the system.
The contest between Palmer and Ramsey was perhaps the bitterest in the city this election cycle, with Palmer attacking Ramsey for failing to meet with constituents, supporting developers and other issues. Ramsey's camp leveled its share of charges, seeking to tie Palmer to a group that opposed taking down four Jim Crow-era monuments.
Officials Thursday first had to sort through the thousands of paper ballots cast in the election to find those from District C. Those were then examined by hand and counted by three different groups of officials and campaign representatives.
That process ultimately led to conflicting tallies, so state Commissioner of Elections Sherri Hadskey gathered the ballots and flipped through them while counting out loud to get the final result. That count gave Ramsey one additional vote that had not been counted on election night.
Any candidate can request a recount for their race, though it’s typically granted only when there are enough paper ballots that the outcome could plausibly be changed, Elections Coordinator Betsy Stoner said.
The last recount in Orleans Parish came in 2015, when state House candidate Willie Jones called for a recount after missing the runoff by 296 votes. That recount also did not change the results of that race, which saw John Bagneris, brother of 2017 mayoral candidate Michael Bagneris, go on to beat Alicia Plummer Clivens in the runoff.
Almost three years earlier, a Baton Rouge judge ordered a recount of early and absentee ballots cast in a referendum on whether to keep the tolls on the Crescent City Connection. Voters in that election opted to extend the tolls by an 18-vote margin, which grew to 36 after the recount.
However, the judge later nullified the election because of electioneering near the polls. The tolls were eliminated in a landslide in a new election, with 78 percent of voters casting ballots to do away with them.
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