The vote totals for each mayoral candidate remained unchanged and the election runoff between Mayor Bill Cooper and Bill Baker remains set for Oct. 6.
That was the final outcome after a five-hour recount of the Aug. 25 municipal election votes cast for mayor held Friday, Sept. 11, at the Enterprise Recreation Center on Lee Street.
The recount, requested by mayoral candidate Lister Reeves, ended at at about 3:30 p.m.
Don Whitman, the Technical Services Manager at the Birmingham-based Election Systems and Software Inc. was on site at the recount which was overseen by Chief Election Inspector David Deal, Chief Election Clerk Don Weaver, Election Official Barbara Goodson and Clerk Mary Sue Cain; Enterprise City Council Members Turner Townsend, Eugene Goolsby and Perry Vickers; Interim City Clerk/Treasurer Beverly Sweeney; and Enterprise Interim Police Chief Michael Moore.
The recount brings to conclusion requests filed separately by Reeves and Vickers to Sweeney by the Sept. 3 deadline cited in the Alabama League of Municipalities Election Calendar which states that anyone “with standing to contest the election” may request a recount within 48 hours of the official canvass on Sept. 1.
According to Alabama law, the person requesting the recount must pay the cost unless a recount alters the election results. In that case, the city assumes the responsibility of the cost.
A special called Enterprise City Council meeting was held Sept. 8 setting the “estimated cost of recount and security required” as the single agenda item.
Because he was one of the two people requesting the recount, Vickers recused himself from the role of council president and turned the meeting over to Goolsby.
The cost of a recount is $2,750, those attending the meeting were told. “Are those fees set in granite?” asked Reeves. “Because they seem very high to me.”
“We get those prices from what the city is charged,” explained city attorney Rainer Cotter. “We don’t just come up with those costs, that is what we are charged for those services.”
Rainer said the cost could be divided between the two men if they agreed to have their requested recounts concurrently.
“My petition specifically said ‘hand recount,’” Reeves said. “It did not say anything about sending them back through a (voting) machine.”
“That is one thing we are sure on,” Cotter replied. “You do a machine recount. You don’t do a hand recount. The statute is clear. When you look at any other city our size, the (Alabama League of Municipalities) has been adamant that this is a machine ballot recount.
“While it’s been many, many years—if we’ve ever had a recount if at all—we follow what the law says and we follow what other cities the size of Enterprise are doing in relation to the recount.”
“That being the case, I withdraw my petition,” Vickers said.
How the ballots had been secured between the Aug. 25 election and the recount request was also questioned by Reeves. “Where are these ballots right now?” Reeves asked Sweeney, who served as chief election official of the municipal election because the mayor was himself a candidate.
Sweeney replied that the ballots were in a back office. “Who has access to the ballots?” Reeves asked.
“No one goes in there. They are in an office off the city clerk’s office,” Sweeney replied, adding that the room is not locked. “They are in a room that no one goes in. I guarantee you that 99.9 percent of the people who work here are not even aware that those boxes are in here.”
“So, anybody who has keys to this building has access to those ballots,” Reeves asked.
“I suppose so, yes sir,” Sweeney replied.
“So, how can I be assured that those ballots have not been tampered with?” Reeves asked Sweeney.
“The boxes are sealed,” she replied.
Reeves also asked for access to “all the tape, video monitoring system from the day those ballots were stored there.” That question was not answered by Cotter or Sweeney.
“So how can I be assured that nobody has tampered with those boxes at all?” Reeves asked. Cotter reiterated that the boxes containing the election ballots cast are sealed.
“I’m just real concerned about who has had access to that room and I can’t seem to get a direct answer,” Reeves answered.
Reeves said he had not planned on pursuing a recount until after he was encouraged to do so by “multiple people” from across the city.
“Any time that a candidate asks for a recount or contests any race, I know that there is the possibility of different people misunderstanding why a candidate does that,” he said. “Some people may think the candidate is not being a good sport, a poor loser or not taking defeat with grace and dignity.
“I want to state publicly, going forward with this petition for recount has nothing to do with that and I would hope those people who know me would know that I’m not doing this with a selfish means to try to alter the integrity of the system,” Reeves said.
“I’m doing it to hopefully maintain character and integrity in the system so that the voters out there, whether they supported me or did not support me, would know that if this recount takes place on Friday and the results stay the same, those people that are in the runoff would even feel better about their position knowing that their votes are accurate.
“And if it were to come back that the votes are not accurate, I hope that people in the City of Enterprise would also realize that someone was willing to take that chance to try to do what was right. I really desire to do what’s right. I want what’s right and what’s best for the City of Enterprise.
“The night of the election when the results came in, obviously anybody who would lose any race would be a little disheartened, which I was.
“I’m very concerned about the integrity of our system,” he added. “I’m extremely concerned about the direction and leadership of our city and I’m extremely concerned that there will continue to be some folks in our city who will not be satisfied because it had the appearance, to many people, that the election process was not handled in the most upright way, with the potential for tampering taking place and the votes not tabulated in a manner that was conducive to what a lot of folks in the city thought they should have been.”
Vickers suggested that, in the future, the council have a resolution in place prior to each election. “So all the procedures are right there and everybody understands them and what’s going to happen,” he said.
With the eight provisional ballots canvassed at the council meeting Sept. 1, the results did little to affect the Aug. 25 municipal election results.
Enterprise Mayor Bill Cooper garnered 1,651 votes in the municipal election. Bill Baker had 942 votes. Reeves had 890 votes and Vickers had 709.
Cooper and Baker face each other in a runoff election to be held from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. at the Enterprise Recreation Center on Oct. 6.
Also in a runoff Oct. 6 are District 3 candidates Greg Padgett and Les Hogan.