FAIRFIELD – Connie Boyer will be Fairfield’s next mayor, unless a recount of the vote returns a different result.
With more than 2,000 votes cast, Fairfield’s mayoral race ended in a tie. To break the tie, the names of the two candidates, Boyer and Michael Halley, were put in a hat, and one of them was drawn: Boyer’s.
The unofficial results released Tuesday night after the run-off election showed Halley with a one-vote lead over Boyer, 1,048 to 1,047. However, 12 absentee ballots were still unaccounted for, and as long as they were postmarked no later than Monday, Dec. 2, and received in the Jefferson County Auditor’s Office by noon Thursday, they would count.
Only one of those absentee ballots arrived in time, and it was a vote for Boyer. That’s what the candidates learned when they met Thursday afternoon in the supervisors’ room at the Jefferson County Courthouse to canvass the election, or in other words, to make it official. Because the additional vote for Boyer created a tie, the only remedy left to decide a winner was to draw a name out of a hat, or actually a small pail in this case.
The name of each candidate was written on a separate piece of paper and put in the pail. Jefferson County Supervisor Daryn Hamilton held the pail as fellow Supervisor Lee Dimmitt reached in to draw a name. The name he drew was Connie Boyer.
Upon learning the result, Halley wasted no time in filing a request for a recount. Jefferson County Auditor Scott Reneker said there were six ballots that cast a vote for neither Halley nor Boyer, at least according to the machines that read them. Two of those contained write-in candidates, two of them were undervotes and two were overvotes.
An undervote refers to when the machine cannot detect any marks in one of the ovals a voter must fill in. An overvote is when the machine detects too many of the ovals have been filled in, such as someone who voted for both candidates.
Halley said he wants the votes to be recounted by hand to ensure that each vote has been counted correctly. He remarked that, regardless of the result of Thursday’s canvass, he fully expected a recount given how close the election was.
“I hope the recount shows a definitive winner by vote rather than by chance,” he said.
Boyer was in high spirits after learning the result of the draw.
“I really want to thank the voters and everybody who helped on campaigns,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to working with everybody for the benefit of Fairfield, and that’s the most important thing.”
Boyer’s husband, Bob Boyer, remarked, “Teamwork is what’s going to advance Fairfield. All the city councilors – Michael and others – will have the vote in making decisions, and Connie is to represent that team in the community. She’s an excellent person to do that, and with everyone teaming up, we’re going to accomplish a lot under Connie’s guidance.”
How a recount works
The date of the recount is not yet known, but it will likely be sometime next week. The two candidates will choose a person to represent them, and those two representatives will serve on the recount board. They will be joined by a third person whom the two representatives agree on. Halley has already announced his representative will be Greg Hatchette.
Halley’s representative and Boyer’s representative will select the third member of their board on Monday, Dec. 9, and the recount must be conducted by Dec. 16. The recount will be open to the public, though only the three members of the recount board can handle the ballots.
The most recent recount in Jefferson County was just last year in the District 82 race for the Iowa House of Representatives between Democrat Phil Miller and Republican Jeff Shipley. In that race, Miller requested a recount for Jefferson County only, and that uncovered 15 ballots that were not counted, but where the voter’s intent was discernible. Nine of those ballots went to Shipley and six went to Miller. Shipley was declared the winner by 37 votes.
Jefferson County Elections Clerk Abbie DeKleine said at the time that some voters circled the candidate’s name, put a check mark next to it, or created their own bubble next to the name and filled that in. She said that, in each case, the voter’s intent was clear, and that none of the board members contested a ballot.