Dan Portes, the third-place candidate in Davenport’s mayoral primary election, is calling for nearly 6,500 votes to be recounted by hand following a nail-biter contest that put him only eight ballots away from advancing to the November general election.
Portes decided to ask for a recount Wednesday night after hearing from supporters. He is not convinced recounting the ballots will push victory over to his side, but considers it important to “validate the system” by going through the process.
“I really don’t think that the outcome is going to change,” Portes said Thursday morning during a phone interview with the Quad-City Times. “But I’ve had so many people come to me and say, ‘Wow, Dan. Way too close. You should do a recount just to make sure.’”
In a mayoral primary, the top two vote-getters go on to compete in the November general election. Unofficial results from the Scott County Auditor’s Office on Tuesday night showed Alderman Mike Matson as the clear winner with 33% of the vote followed by Alderwoman Rita Rawson with 23%.
With a recount, Portes only stands to gain if errors are found that remove votes from Rawson or put more into his column. Rawson, meanwhile, is content with the Portes’ request, saying he has the legal right to ask for a recount and she would probably do the same if the shoe were on the other foot.
Still, Rawson questioned the decision to seek a hand recount that’s expected to take days to complete when elections experts routinely place higher confidence in the accuracy of voting machines over humans.
“I mean, I expected a recount. That’s fine,” Rawson said Thursday. “But oh my goodness.”
Meanwhile, Scott County Auditor Roxanna Moritz, whose office oversees local elections, is confident the original outcome will be upheld. She says the high-tech vote-counting machines used by her office are far more accurate than counting by hand.
“I definitely have faith in our system,” Moritz said. “I have faith in the voting equipment. I think it’s people that make mistakes.”
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Mortiz added that the recount offers an opportunity to show the public that “they can have faith in the system” as well.
Absentee ballots cast by mail were still arriving at the Auditor’s Office and being counted this week until Thursday, but those votes had no impact on the results. Over the past two days, Rawson and Portes picked up five absentee votes each.
The Scott County Board of Supervisors met Thursday afternoon and certified the results compiled by the Auditor’s Office. They also approved Portes’ request to conduct a hand recount beginning Monday at 8 a.m. Moritz expects the process be completed over two days.
Under Iowa law, any candidate may call for a recount at no personal expense if the margin of victory is within a differential of 1%. Candidates involved each select one volunteer representative and those representatives must agree on a third person. If no third person is agreed upon, a judge picks.
In this case, Moritz said the recount officials have already been designated and approved. Counting all of the ballots by hand is expected to be completed over two days, Moritz said, and the deadline to set the November ballot is Wednesday.
If the results from primary night stand, that will spell the end of Portes’ mayoral campaign despite being one of the race’s top fundraisers and spenders. He received the second-most in outside donor support after Matson.
Portes is the founder and CEO of Davenport-based recruiting company Management Resource Group. Along the campaign trail, Portes has displayed himself as a someone with big ideas and the connections needed to follow them through.
Rawson, meanwhile, is a financial adviser who joined the City Council as the representative of Davenport’s 5th Ward in 2016. In her pursuit of the mayor’s office, she has pointed to growing the city’s economy and creating more housing opportunities by revitalizing distressed neighborhoods as her top priorities.
Six candidates sought to replace two-term Mayor Frank Klipsch this year after he declared that he would not seek reelection. Others competing in the primary were Elizabeth VanCamp, a social media manager with the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics; Steve Duffy, a retired municipal insurance claims administrator; and Dean Weber, a longtime Davenport Public Works employee.