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Recount confirms Gardner's 1-vote victory over Skor in primary

WILLMAR -- Willmar City Council member Steve Gardner has kept his 1-vote primary election victory over challenger Bob Skor, according to a hand recount of ballots conducted by the City Council.

Wednesday afternoon's recount also confirmed challenger Tim Johnson placed first and Gardner second in the three-way primary election for the council's Second Ward seat.

The ballots were recounted by council members who met in special session for about 50 minutes at the City Office Building.

The recount was requested by Skor, who had placed third in the Sept. 9 primary election.

After the ballots were counted, council members adjourned the special session and convened briefly as the board of canvass.

The board approved a resolution certifying that Johnson received 528 votes, Gardner received 151 votes and Skor received 150 votes.

As the top two vote-getters, Johnson and Gardner will advance to the Nov. 4 general election.

Gardner is seeking a second four-year term.

Under state law, the losing candidate may request a recount if the difference between the vote for that candidate and for a winning candidate for nomination or election is less than one-half of 1 percent of the total votes counted for that office.

The 1-vote difference between Gardner and Skor fell within the range under which state law allows a losing candidate to request a recount.

Besides confirming the vote totals, the recount found no differences in the number of overvotes (2) and undervotes (13).

An overvote occurs when a voter votes for too many candidates. The overvote nullifies all votes for that office, but all other offices that were not overvoted are good and properly counted, said City Clerk Kevin Halliday.

An undervote occurs where a voter chooses not to vote for anybody in that particular office, he said.

The lack of change in the overvotes and undervotes indicates that the electronic voting machines counted the ballots correctly, according to Halliday.

He could not remember any other council recounts during the last 22 years as city clerk.

The ballots from each of the Second Ward's three precincts were brought to the meeting in separate, white, sealed envelopes by Kandiyohi County Auditor Sam Modderman, the custodian of the ballots.

Each envelope was unsealed and the ballots were removed and sorted into a pile for each candidate by council member Doug Reese, who was acting in place of Mayor Les Heitke. Heitke later seated himself while the recount was under way. The ballots were then counted by teams of council members. Gardner was present and observed the recount, but he did not participate.

Halliday said that any ballot not clearly marked as an oval or other indication could have been challenged, but there were no challenges.

At the end of the recount, the ballots were placed by precinct in new, separate, white envelopes, sealed, signed by council members and returned to Modderman.

Halliday said the M-100 voting machines "performed to perfection,'' and he said the recount "went excellent.''