Candidate in judge’s race says provisional ballots being counted
Staff at the Lee County Supervisor of Elections Office reportedly spent Thursday counting provisional ballots cast during the primary election.
“They have provisional ballots they are counting,” Eric Feichthaler, a candidate for the Lee County Judge Group 4 seat, said. “They’ve been counting them all day.”
Following Tuesday’s election, officials announced that Feichthaler had lost the race to the seat’s incumbent, Judge Archie Hayward Jr. Of the 68,727 people who voted in the race, 50.17 percent — 34,477 votes — supported Hayward. Feichthaler claimed 49.83 percent of the total votes, or 34,250.
Feichthaler, who has been in contact with Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington, noted that he is down by 227 votes. Florida statutes require a recount if a candidate loses by .5 percent or less of the total number of votes cast in the race. For Feichthaler, that number is about 344 votes.
“If there were no provisional ballots, then there would be a recount,” he said. “No one knows what’s going to happen when they (the provisional ballots) are counted.”
Harrington could not be reached for comment Thursday.
According to Feichthaler, one example of when provisional ballots come into play is if a person requests an absentee ballot. If the person does not fill out the ballot and instead goes to the polls on election day, it must be confirmed that they did not vote twice — once through absentee and once at the polls.
“That is one of several scenarios where someone could have a provisional ballot,” he said.
After the provisional ballots are counted and the numbers confirmed, a recount could be in order depending on the figures and the state statutes. Elections officials appear to anticipate that a recount will be warranted.
“They’re told me that it’s expected to happen over the weekend,” he said. “I think they have several days to do it.”
Following the machine recount, if a candidate is losing by .25 percent or less of the total number of votes cast, the Florida statutes require that a manual recount is in order. This means counting the ballots by hand, Feichthaler said.
“There are several things that could happen,” he added.
As for the process, Feichthaler and his campaign are being patient.
“We just want to make sure the will of the people of Lee County is done,” Feichthaler said. “That’s why the statute is in place, when something is this close.”
“These things are not fool-proof,” he added.
Hayward could not be reached for comment Thursday.
He thanked his supporters Tuesday following the release of the results.
“I am certainly happy and honored to have the confirmation of the citizens of Lee County,” he said. “I believe that this is a validation of what I was doing as a judge and attorney.”
Hayward added that he was “grateful, honored and blessed.”
“This was a very good campaign and I appreciate Mr. Feichthaler and his efforts,” he said. “It was a great race.”
Lee County Court judge seats have a term of six years.