AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The City of Amarillo said a recount petition in the May 1, 2021 mayoral race was certified on Thursday.
Amarillo City Manager Jared Miller said mayoral candidate Claudette Smith filed the petition and paid a $4,500 deposit for the recount.
Miller said on Thursday that the City had seven days to start the recount.
“We’re going to begin the recount early next week. We’re going to print all of the ballots and move all of the mail-in ballots into locked boxes at both counties. The following day, all of that will be moved by police officers so that the chain of custody is secure to the counting location at the Civic Center,” Miller said.
Miller said the recount will take place in one of two large rooms at the Amarillo Civic Center, and is anticipated to take anywhere from six to eight hours.
“There are 36 counters. The counters are provided by the two counties, by the election administrator for both counties. So, each county is going to provide 18 counters,” Miller said.
He continued, “Each counting team is made up of a caller who calls out the result of the ballot, and two talliers who write down that call. After each block of ballots—say there are 10 or 20 ballots in a block—they would stop and they will compare their notes, to make sure that that block is accurate. If it’s not accurate, they go back to the start of that block and that’s why we do it in small chunks so that we don’t go a long way and then have an error.”
According to Miller, counting teams will count and verify after each block of votes and continue that process until the recount is finished.
The City said there are also four recount committee members. Miller said those members have not been appointed at this time. To be eligible to serve on the recount committee, a person must be a qualified voter of the City of Amarillo.
Miller clarified that Smith made a deposit instead of a certain payment amount because it is unclear how long the recount process might take or how much it might cost.
“It very likely could cost more, but we don’t know that. So, for each of the 36 counters, state election law outlines what they get paid per hour. So, each one of them is going to make $12 an hour. We anticipate six to eight hours. So, you can start estimating these costs at this point,” Miller continued. “Each one of the committee members, and there’s four of them, makes $15 an hour. We will also have security on-site and there is an established fee for police officers’ security assignments. There’s also food. There’s room rental, so you know there’s a lot of costs there that will add up.”
Miller said, “What we’re doing is making sure that everything that we do is in accordance with the fees and costs outlined through election law.”
The City of Amarillo said Smith would get her money back if there is a change in outcome, but a change in the count would not matter.
To change the outcome and force a runoff election, the City said Mayor Ginger Nelson would have to lose 816 votes in the recount. A runoff would be between the top two vote getters.
According to the City of Amarillo, those allowed in the room for the recount include: The recount chair and committee members, the candidates, campaign treasurers, and their watchers (up to one watcher per counting team), the custodians of the voted ballots, the recount supervisor, and any state inspectors.
Miller said Interim City Secretary, LeAnn Gallman, will supervise the recount.
“She has been working in city government for 39 years. 17 of those years, as a City Secretary, five as a City Manager,” Miller said of Gallman. “While she was a City Secretary, she was president of the state city secretary association.”
Miller continued, “So, we have an expert working in this capacity, we will not miss a step. She has also taught election law at the municipal clerk’s, at the city secretary’s training sessions, many, many years. So, we have an expert working in the city secretary’s role. I know that would be a question for some people. Having an interim secretary. Is that going to be a problem for the recount process? It will not.”
City representatives said media are not allowed to be present during the recount, per Texas law. Additionally, they said Texas law states electronics are prohibited.
Miller said the City of Amarillo has not had a recount in recent history, so they are working with the Secretary of State’s office and following election law.
“We’ve also requested that a Secretary of State, state inspector be assigned to our counting location, and they have agreed to do that. So, we will have a representative from the Secretary of State’s office, a state inspector here, while the recount was going on,” Miller said. “We want to make sure is that everybody understands, we are adhering to all protocols, put out by the city Secretary of State, by election law, and by state statute.”
According to Miller, votes in the May 1 Municipal Election will be canvassed on Tuesday, including votes in the mayoral race.
“We just won’t certify that election or swear in a winner until after this recount is complete,” Miller added.
The City of Amarillo said those elected and re-elected on May 1 for places one through four will be sworn in at the May 11 Amarillo City Council Meeting. If the outcome of the mayoral race does not change after the recount, Nelson would be sworn in on May 25.
Miller also said no other candidate in the May 1 election filed a recount petition.
In the petition requesting a recount which was filed by candidate Smith, there are four grounds to call for a recount. Candidate Smith cited her reasoning for requesting this recount as being because an electronic system was used in the election.