No. 5: Hand recount determines final commission seat

12/27/2013

Editor's Note:This is the sixth in a series of stories featuring The Telegram's top 10 news stories for 2013.

Editor's Note:This is the sixth in a series of stories featuring The Telegram's top 10 news stories for 2013.

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

While there were no hanging chads to deal with, Garden City's municipal election in April experienced a glitch of its own that required a hand recount of ballots to determine who secured the third and final spot on the Garden City Commission.

The election snafu is No. 5 on The Telegram's list of top stories of the year, as voted on by The Telegram staff.

Five people were seeking to fill three seats on the city commission, including Chris Law, Janet Doll, Melvin Dale, Troy Unruh and Harold Starr.

On election night, Doll, Law and Unruh appeared to have been elected. But the following day, additional numbers were released indicating Dale had finished third instead of Unruh.

An election night computer problem was blamed for erroneous vote totals being distributed. Finney County Clerk Elsa Ulrich said at the time that a card was misread three times, causing changes in results coming from one ward.

The mistake caused Dale and Unruh to switch places whenever the data card was read. At first, Unruh appeared to be in third place on election night. After a second count, Dale was ahead, but a third put Unruh back in front.

The issue was finally resolved on April 8. Following a four-and-a-half hour hand recount, official results of the April 2 city commission election finally were certified.

In the end, Doll and Law were elected to four-year terms while Dale received a two-year term with a 10-vote margin over Unruh.

After the recount, Dale acknowledged it had been a crazy week, but said he felt delighted to win.

"It was rough for myself and Troy, but it was also rough for the committee here for the county. They had some problems and worked them all out," Dale said at the time.

Dale had been appointed in January to fill the unexpired term on the commission left open when state Rep. John Doll moved to the state legislature.

Unruh at the time said that not knowing what was going on, and then getting the different counts made for a challenging week, but he wants to make sure people know he is not bitter or upset.

"It was a unique opportunity. I had a great time doing it," he said. "I just don't want this to discourage anyone else from running for office. I want people to realize that we need good leadership."

Only the city commission votes were recounted by hand. Other April 2 contests were not.

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