Silbiger's lead down to 31 votes

It looks like the race for City Council seat No. 5 is headed for a recount.

With 601 ballots left to be processed countywide, Pam Vavra is just 0.3 percent behind incumbent Russ Silbiger. A difference of 0.2 percent or less will trigger an automatic administrative recount, but Vavra said she will request and pay for a recount if the final results show less than 1 percent difference between the two candidates.

Updated results from the Jackson County elections office posted at 10:44 a.m. Thursday show Silbiger leading Vavra by 31 votes, 46.25 percent (4,723 votes) to 45.95 percent (4,692 votes).

Vavra said she asked County Clerk Chris Walker for an estimate of the cost of a recount, and she has received sufficient pledges from supporters to cover the cost.

Walker said Vavra wanted to know the cost of the 2006 recount between Eric Navickas and Greg Lemhouse.

In 2006, a computer glitch in Ashland's second precinct resulted in a recount for that precinct, and Lemhouse requested the other four precincts also be recounted.

Walker said that recount cost Lemhouse $1,200, but the amount paid by a candidate depends on the actual cost of conducting the recount.

A demand for a recount must be accompanied by a deposit of $15 for each precinct to be counted, Walker said.

Vavra said one person who observed the counting told her there were problems with the tabulating machines and urged her to request a recount.

Walker said there were absolutely no problems with the machines.

This year the elections office used a longer, 17-inch ballot that had an extra fold so voters would not be sent two ballots, Walker said. It takes a little longer for these ballots to go through the tabulating machines, she said.

"Our machines ran great," Walker said. "They were just a little slower."

Vavra said she has also reviewed reports of the 2006 recount for the Navickas/Lemhouse race that showed a swing of six votes in one precinct.

"Based on those four items, if the final count shows me trailing by a margin of less than 1 percent and there is not an automatic recount, then I do plan to request a recount," Vavra said.

Today at 4 p.m. is the deadline for voters to come to the elections office and clear up signature challenges, Walker said. However, it's likely not all voters will come in, so not all of the remaining ballots will be counted, she added.

There are still a few other ballot issues to work out, and the process is time consuming, she said. This procedure occurs every election, Walker added, but this race just happens to be very close.

"Integrity and accuracy of the ballot counting," are the most important, she said.

The elections office has until Nov. 24 to certify the results, and then they'll begin administrative recounts, Walker said.

A new state law requires post-election hand counts of randomly selected races and precincts in all 36 counties to verify that machines counted accurately. Walker said she expects those recounts to take two or three days.

If a 0.2 percent margin triggered an automatic recount of the Vavra/Silbiger race, Walker said that recount would probably start with the administrative recounts on Nov. 24, but she is not sure.

Depending on the final tallies, it would take a separation of 19 votes to produce an automatic recount, she said.

If Vavra were to request a recount, the starting date would depend on how soon she made the request, Walker said.

State law says a candidate must file a demand for a recount within 35 days of the election, with a supplemental demand to be made no later than 45 days after the election.

Silbiger said he is just waiting for the final tally.

"At this point, the cards are already in the deck," Silbiger said. "I'd just like to see a final result."

Silbiger said he never served on the council to stoke his ego.

"I always thought it was what I could do for the community," he said. "It's not the end of the world, either way."

No matter what happens, for him, seeing Barack Obama win the presidential election will be the highlight of this election season, Silbiger said.

"It makes my little race so insignificant compared to what we did as a country," he said. "That will be my memory for 2008."

Staff writer Kira Rubenthaler can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 226 or

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