For close to 12 hours Thursday at the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office, poll workers entered thousands of ballots through election machines to make sure Calhoun County Commissioner Eli Henderson got enough votes to take over the soon-to-be vacated circuit clerk’s seat next year. And while the challenger, Democratic candidate Missy Hall, cut a little into the margin of victory, Henderson appeared Thursday evening to have enough of a lead to win the election.
Results from the recount will still need to be certified today, but by estimates from representatives of both candidates, the Democratic candidate Missy Hall grabbed between 10 and 20 additional votes Thursday. Hall began Thursday morning trailing Henderson by 108 votes.
But before leaving the Sheriff’s Office Thursday, an exhausted Hall, who worked as a poll observer, said she was still hopeful results might go her way and wasn’t conceding anything until the final tally comes out.
“We’re going to wait and see the certified results,” she said. “You never know.”
Henderson dropped by the Sheriff’s Office periodically throughout the day to check on results, but said he wasn’t worried about the outcome. At one stop during the afternoon he expressed gratitude for all the workers going through the ballots.
“Win, lose or draw, I’m just thankful we live in a country where we can watch this process,” Henderson said. “It can be a lot of trouble, and a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it. Our Founding Fathers knew what they were doing.”
Under Alabama law, an automatic recount for any election takes place if results are decided by less than one-half of one percent.
Beginning their day at 8 a.m., 20 poll workers, along with 10 poll watchers and a canvassing board made up of current Circuit Clerk Ted Hooks, Probate Judge Alice Martin and Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Matthew Wade, worked around the clock, feeding ballots one-at-a-time into election machines, only briefly breaking for lunch around noon.
By 7 p.m., the last of the absentee ballots was finally counted, as the candidates and onlookers tried to tally up the stray votes that might have changed hands. Around 4 p.m., Martin said the results wouldn’t be certified until today.
Despite the long hours, Martin said the recount, for the most part, went smoothly. At one point in the afternoon there was a mishap when poll workers accidentally placed mismarked ballots in the wrong pile, but Martin said the ballots, 13 in all, were found and sorted correctly.
“Everything went great,” Martin said. “Everyone was patient and helpful and we all got through this without a problem.”
Official results are expected to be available by noon today.
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.