OWOSSO — Mike Cline, a candidate for Owosso City Council in the Nov. 3 election, is seeking a recount of the absentee ballots in his race, which he lost by 31 votes.
Cline filed a petition for a recount Monday, the filing deadline. He said he requested the recount after overhearing a conversation between City Clerk Amy Kirkland and an election worker at 1:30 a.m. Nov. 4 at Owosso City Hall.
“(They said the ballot counting) would have went pretty smooth if it were not for an issue with (absentee) ballots and they had to start (the count over),” Cline said in his recount petition.
He is seeking a recount of absentee ballots only. The date for the recount will be set after the Board of State Canvassers gives the go-ahead to Shiawassee County Clerk Caroline Wilson to proceed, she said.
The recount of about 3,000 ballots will take place in the lower level of Owosso City Hall, with county and city election officials present. Cline said he will attend if he is able.
Kirkland said Tuesday that one of Owosso’s three absent voter counting boards experienced difficulties with the counting machine at about 7 p.m. Nov. 3 — midway through the count — requiring election workers to start over. They finished up at about 1:30 a.m. Nov. 4.
“The whole reason they started over was to make sure they had it right,” Kirkland said.
Cline said he trusts Kirkland, whom he has known for several years, and is only seeking a recount because of the conversation he overheard and the national discussion regarding an election featuring heavy absentee voting.
Because of COVID-19, many more people than usual voted by absentee ballot Nov. 3.
“I’m doing it because of all the controversy you’ve had about absentee ballots, here and across the United States. Thirty-one votes have to be questioned a little bit,” Cline said. “If I hadn’t overheard that conversation, I probably would have let it be.”
Cline is paying $150 for the recount. If the recount changes the outcome of the election in Cline’s favor, the fee will be refunded to him.
Cline ran for one of four open seats on the Owosso City Council, sought by eight candidates. Cline narrowly missed out on a seat, coming in fifth with 2,054 votes. The next-highest vote-getter was incumbent Nicholas Pidek, who tallied 2,085 votes and retained his seat.
The only other recount from the Nov. 3 election in Shiawassee County involves a write-in race for a trustee seat on the Burns Township Board, with only four votes separating two candidates, Wilson said.
Then-Burns Township Supervisor Brad Howard lost his bid to opponent, fellow Republican Casey Glass, in the August primary. In the wake of her victory, Glass gave up her seat on the township board.
Those changes left two open seats on the board and three candidates: Incumbent Bill Bowers, who won one seat with 1,581 votes, and two write-in candidates, Darren Murray and Howard, who vied for the other seat.
Murray received 68 write-in votes, while Howard received 64 write-ins. Write-in votes in the trustee race totaled 158, and 26 of those were deemed “unqualified.”
A date will be set for the Burns Township recount after the state gives the county clerk permission to unseal the ballots for that race.