Mayoral Candidate Bill Rowback said this morning that the county and state Republican committee on if a recount will be asked for after news broke Monday that a reporting error in two Wards lead to a change in the winner.
The unofficial results on election night showed Rowback as winning over incumbent Dayton King. On Monday though, it was announced King had a 28-vote lead over Rowback.
“I’m in limbo here,” Rowback said of the matter.
Rowback told The Leader-Herald on Monday afternoon that the matter of a potential recount was in the hands of his attorneys and the state Republican Committee.
Rowback could not be reached for comment this morning on his updated stance on a recount. Rowback said his initial reaction to the phone call about the numbers was amazement that it could happen.
“I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on,” Rowback said of the call from Republican Fulton County Election Commissioner Lee Hollenbeck.
Rowback encouraged his supporters to continue acting respectfully toward everyone.
“I don’t want my supporters out there being negative toward Mayor King, his family and his supporters. We need to be above the tide and treat everyone with respect,” Rowback said.
Rowback said since he does not know the rules behind election day reporting, he will not make judgment on anything the board of elections is doing.
“I don’t want to point blame on people without knowing the facts on how things are done,” Rowback said.
Hollenbeck explained the issue that occurred on election night.
He said when the poll workers reported the results in Ward 3, the correct total for District 1 was read from the report that is generate by the voting machine at the end of the night. But when they reported in the results for Rowback in District 2, the tally of both Districts 1 and 2 was read instead, bypassing the tally for District 2 alone, leading to an incorrect tally.
“In Ward 3, they called in 521, where it was 253,” Hollenbeck said of Rowback’s totals in the district.
Hollenbeck said the incorrect tallies for both candidates were read in Ward 5, district 2. He said in that ward, Rowback was reported as having 405 votes when it was really 261; and for King was reported as having 384, when it was 316.
“I’m not blaming anybody. [Poll workers] have been there since 5:30 that morning. They are calling in between 9:30 at night or [9:45] and I can see stuff happening,” Hollenbeck said.
The unofficial results on election night showed Rowback has the winner with a vote of what was then 1,800 for Rowback to King’s then tally of 1,490. When the errors were discovered the total changed to King having 1,516 to Rowback’s 1,488.
Rowback was running on the Republican and Moving Forward lines and King on the Conservative party line.
Hollenbeck said the error was discovered Friday during one of the checks of the numbers during the certification process for the results. He said when the tally sheets were examined, the mistaken reports were found.
Hollenbeck said a decision was made to check the numbers again on Monday to ensure they were correct before making any calls to the candidates. He said after they came out the same, calls were made by Hollenbeck to both candidates to inform them.
“We contacted Mr. King and Mr. Rowback first thing because they have a right to know,” he said.
Hollenbeck said his office may consider no longer allowing call in tallies for here on out and instead wait until the memory cards from the machines are ready.
Hollenbeck said several years ago, the county began to have the sites call in the tallies, since so many candidates and supporters would call in during the night looking for the results.
“I think what we’re going to start doing is we’ll stop the call in. Everyone is going to have to wait until we get all the memory cards in. It might be 11 o’clock, it might be midnight, but I think we’ve got to stop these call ins,” Hollenbeck said.
A similar unofficial reporting incident happened in 2016 in the race for Fourth Ward Council. When the official results came in Steven Smith was declared the winner, after the unofficial results showed incumbent Ellen Anadio as the winner.
Hollenbeck said the numbers are checked several times before the results are made official, which is scheduled to happen later today.
The results are not declared as official until the affidavits, absentee ballots, and military ballots are counted and the tally sheets are reviewed. Hollenbeck said today is the last day for military ballots.
“When we get all done and certify, it’s official. Until we certify it is not official,” Hollenbeck said.
Hollenbeck said the Board of Elections is confident the current numbers will stay, but stressed that until the certification, they remain unofficial.
“We got Gloversville done because we had to,” Hollenbeck said.
He said he does not believe there are many military ballots out at this point. Hollenbeck said the county will not change the website count until the official results are approved later today.
Hollenbeck said if there were a recount of the vote, he would welcome it, because it would show that the numbers that will be made official later today are correct.
Rowback said he would like to see something different done at the board of elections following this and other incidents.
“I’m not holding anybody at fault. Whoever was working at Wards 3 and 5, I am not putting blame on them. It would have been better off if they double or triple check the numbers,” Rowback said.
Rowback said he would support the board waiting to make the announcement on election night.
“I started this campaign on Feb. 8, what’s another five hours or six hours, even if you have to wait till Nov. 8 at 6 o’clock in the morning to have it come out,” Rowback said.
Rowback said he will continue to do what he has been doing for 28 years prior, being a firefighter for the city of Gloversville and to support the city residents in any way he can.
“I am going to support this city 100 percent. I wasn’t supporting all the events we’ve have since February just because I was running for office. I have always supported the city 100 percent,” Rowback said.
Rowback said the investigation into the release of his personnel file is continuing with the state police.
“It was not dropped and I am continuing that investigation,” Rowback said.
Rowback filed a complaint with the state police in Mayfield following the release of his personnel records on Facebook prior to the election.
Fulton County Republican Chairwoman Sue McNeil said that the committee will offer any non-legal support to Rowback it can in that case.
McNeil said Monday that while they could ask for a recount, after speaking with the commissioners at the Board of Elections, the computerized portion has been counted, and that is what is gone by and votes have been counted and recounted.
“I know they say those are the unofficial results, but everything has been open and counted,” McNeil said.
King could not be reached for comment this morning or Monday afternoon. He told The Leader-Herald on Monday morning that said while he is happy to have been declared the winner, he feels bad for Rowback.
“It’s a weird feeling, actually,” King said. “I feel bad for Mr. Rowback to think that you have won and you’ve actually lost.”
But he added he was happy the count, which will become official tomorrow morning and includes all districts and absentee votes, and that he was ready to move forward.
“We wanted to win, so I am glad we did and I am happy for my team and [the opportunity] to continue those relationships.”
Rowback encouraged his supporters to not make any negative comments towards the board of elections, Mayor Dayton King or King’s family. Rowback said that following the Nov. 7 election he did get some negative comments on his phone by those who didn’t support him and said he doesn’t want to see that repeated with anyone else.
“I have been blessed by my supporters. I have been blessed by my committee that has put in countless hours, door to door doing hand outs and fundraisers,” Rowback said.
Kerry Minor can be reached at [email protected]