City of Amarillo bills Claudette Smith for mayoral recount cost

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AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Mayor Ginger Nelson was sworn in at the end of May after winning in the mayoral election recount and now, former candidate Claudette Smith is receiving a bill for the cost.

Smith requested a hand recount after the May 1 election. It wrapped up on May 12, and the outcome did not change. The City said in May that about 816 votes would have to come away from Mayor Nelson’s vote total to force a runoff between Nelson and Smith.

After tallying up the costs and submitting them to the Texas Security of State, the City of Amarillo sent a bill to Smith for the mayoral recount on Tuesday.

The city said the total cost is $11,874.50 and under the Texas Election Code, assessable costs to Smith were $5,978.64 after she paid a $4,500 deposit prior to the recount. Smith now owes a balance of $1,478.64.

The Amarillo City Manager, Jared Miller, said Smith is being charged for the cost of the recount committee and personnel as well as the printing of the electronic ballots.

Miller said of the recount committee and supervisors, “…there were 48 people in total, that was $4,785.48…The other thing that was charged to her was for the printing of electronic ballots, and that was $1,193.16.”

When asked how she felt about the bill she received, Smith said, “If my attorney says I’m supposed to pay the the additional $1,400 then that’s what I’ll be paying. I mean, it is what it is. If that’s the law, but I’d be willing to bet that a lot of these charges are not even assessable to me. And if you read the Texas election code, it basically says the cause the actual cost to print the ballots, and then you have to pay for the hourly rate for the for the recount committee, and that’s it. All this other stuff that’s on here is irrelevant.”

Miller said none of the other recount expenses can be assessed to Smith. The remaining nearly $5,900 worth of recount expenses will be footed by the City and taxpayers, although Miller said the City budgets for situations like this.

“Our main priority was to make sure to protect the integrity in the election, to make sure our citizens can have confidence in our election process,” Miller said. “…while there are costs that will not be recovered, that is an acceptable price to pay to make sure that our election integrity is whole.”

Smith said she does not believe it was an official recount.

“A recount is where you get to count the actual physical, physical ballots that were cast. Unfortunately, Amarillo has opted not to use the type of voting machines that are required by law that create cast ballot images and paper trails,” said Smith.

Smith also tells us when she filed the recount it was not because she believed the outcome would change, but to make a change.

“Kind of like President Trump says, this is a process that we need to go through to make an effective change. So this recount was really all part of a much bigger plan,” Smith said. “I was hoping to knock that out and get what we needed to gain from that document wise, and, and the process just to get that out of it and just to kind of put everyone’s mind at ease, or, you know, find out if we needed to take it a step further after that. And so, I think we definitely accomplished that.”

Smith said she will stay in the political sphere, but will not consider another run for office until she said there is more election integrity and a paper trail for ballots.

The City said per election code, she will have 90 days to pay the remaining balance.

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