An official recount Monday confirmed the narrow victory that Jay Banks scored over opponent Seth Bloom in this month's runoff for the District B seat on the New Orleans City Council.
The recount gave Bloom four more votes and Banks one, leaving the outcome unchanged. Banks ultimately won the race by 128 votes instead of 131, clearing the way for him to take over the seat now held by Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell.
Darren Mire, who is president of the political organization BOLD and attended the recount on Banks' behalf, said Banks plans to represent the entire district, despite the sharply contested race.
“And it’s very, very important to Jay to operate by starting to mend fences and cross neighborhood lines and get support where he didn’t get votes," Mire said.
Although recounts have been almost unknown in local politics, Monday's event was the second one this fall for a council seat. A recount after the Oct. 14 primary confirmed Kristin Gisleson Palmer's 111-vote victory over incumbent Nadine Ramsey in District C.
The recount process looks only at the relatively few ballots that aren’t automatically tallied by voting machines. They include absentee votes, paper ballots and votes cast by fax or email, all of which could potentially have been miscounted or rejected by the equipment that scans them into the system.
Bloom, who requested the recount, congratulated Banks on his victory but pointed to what he called flaws in the way the votes were authenticated.
“We owe it to the citizens of New Orleans to make changes to increase transparency and voter confidence in the election process,” he said.
A list of alleged irregularities provided by Bloom’s camp highlighted instances where poll workers failed to obtain signatures from voters before they cast ballots and where poll commissioners in some precincts failed to certify the correct number of voters.
Bloom also criticized the way the recount was handled. He pointed out that some members of the Orleans Parish Board of Election Supervisors, which oversaw the process of certifying the votes, publicly backed various candidates during this year's elections.
Though he did not mention specific names, the board's chairman, Orleans Parish Republican Executive Committee Chairman Jay Batt, supported Banks. Banks and Bloom are both Democrats.
Bloom’s campaign manager and partner, Gary Solomon Jr., acknowledged that the irregularities “don’t necessarily change the outcome” of the Nov. 18 result.
The District B race, already a testy affair ahead of an Oct. 14 primary that whittled down a six-candidate field to two, turned downright hostile ahead of the runoff.
After Bloom admitted to struggling with prescription opioids while serving on the Orleans Parish School Board, Banks accused Bloom of trying to spin his addiction as an accomplishment. He also made hay over Bloom’s absences from School Board meetings.
Bloom attacked Banks’ ties to BOLD, which is short for the Black Organization for Leadership Development, deriding him as a political machine candidate.
Bloom refused to concede after Banks eked out the victory Nov. 18, saying he wanted a recount.
District B covers a diverse collection of neighborhoods, including the Central Business District, Central City, the Garden District and Lower Garden District, Broadmoor and parts of Uptown, Mid-City and Bayou St. John.
Jay Banks was elected to the New Orleans City Council on Saturday, eking out a victory over challenger Seth Bloom, who reportedly isn't ready …