Election recount paused for Benton Township board as winter storm hits Midwest

Republican Jake Dodds will have to wait until after Christmas for confirmation of his election to one of the three seats on the Benton Township board in Monroe County, Indiana.

The three-member recount commission that is conducting a manual review of the ballots got started at 9 a.m. on Thursday, but was not able to complete the work by the end of the day.

The margin for Dodds over fourth-place finisher Hans Kelson was 4 votes.

They will pick back up in a week, on Dec. 29. The election took place on Nov. 8.

The recount commission’s work day was shortened by a winter storm that led the Monroe County government to send workers home at 3 p.m.

The winter storm warning issued by the National Weather Service called for “Heavy snow and dangerous cold. Total snow accumulations of 2 to 4 inches. Winds gusting as high as 50 mph. Near blizzardlike conditions possible at times.”

Dodds was the third-place finisher in the race, with 621 votes behind Democrats Sean McInerny and Joseph Husk, who received 648 and 641 votes, respectively. That was enough to put Dodds on the board.

Fourth-place finisher, Democrat Hans Kelson, received 617 votes, which left him out of the mix for the three board seats—by 4 votes.

It was Monroe County Democratic Party chair David Henry who in November filed the petition for a recount of the Benton Township board race, on behalf of Hans Kelson.

On Thursday, after the recounting was completed for the Benton 01 precinct, it looked like both Dodds and Kelson each had dropped two votes. Benton Township has just two precincts.

The time consuming part of Thursday’s work was the sorting of ballots to isolate the Benton 01 precinct ballots from other Monroe County precinct ballots. Unlike the ballots for Benton 02, those for Benton 01 did not get segregated as a part of the recount for the District 62 state house race.

The recount of the Benton Township board race could not start until the recount of the District 62 state house race had concluded—because all the ballots for Monroe County had been impounded as a part of that recount process. The manual recount in the District 62 race left Republican Dave Hall as the winner, and increased his margin from 40 to 74, over Democrat Penny Githens.

Under state election law, a circuit court judge has to appoint a three-member recount commission for a township board race. It is judge Erik Allen out of Greene County who is overseeing the Benton Township board recount. Allen gave the order on Thursday to extend the deadline for completion of the recount until Dec. 29.

Allen’s appointees to the recount commission were: William Ellis, who is Monroe County Republican Party vice chair; Fred Turner, a local attorney who has run for judge as a Democrat; and Bob White, who is Monroe County’s IT contractor for election support.

White fills the slot on the commission that is described under the state law on recounts for local races as “… a competent mechanic who is familiar with the ballot card voting systems or electronic voting systems used in that election.”

On Thursday, The B Square saw the recount commission adjudicate just one ballot, which had a vote for Dodds, and was ultimately accepted as valid.

The challenge was raised by Cory Ray, watcher for Democrat Hans Kelson, based on what Ray saw as a lack of an election worker’s initial on an absentee ballot. Absentee ballots have to be initialed by two election workers in order to be valid.

After scrutinizing the disputed ballot with a magnifier, the three-member commission concluded that there were, in fact, two sets of initials on the ballot and voted unanimously to accept it.

Dodds was present to watch much of the day’s work, which took place at Election Central at 7th and Madison streets in downtown Bloomington.

Also present for a good part of the day were: Monroe County GOP chair Taylor Bryant; newly elected District 62 state representative Dave Hall; GOP county commissioner candidate Perry Robinson; and Monroe County Democratic Party chair David Henry.

Photos: Recount work for Benton Township board (Dec. 22, 2022)