Gayle Rayles wins County Auditor’s race by seven votes: Recount coming?


Over 3,000 votes were cast on Tuesday in the County Auditor’s race between incumbent Democrat Rachel Bladen Schuler and Republican challenger Gayle A. Rayles. After all of the ballots were counted, Gayle Rayles emerged as the winner of the closest race of the night, winning the office by a margin of just seven votes – 1,530 to 1,523; and setting off questions as to whether or not a recount will be held.

Making matters even more uncertain are the “five or six” provisional ballots that were cast on Tuesday but have not yet been counted. When a person comes to the polling location to vote, but for some reason they are not on the election sheet or there is some other problem that prohibits them from voting, the voter is allowed to cast a provisional ballot. After the election is over, County Clerk Ginger Peters said that the voter can request that their provisional ballot be considered by the county election board.

If the county election board meets and determines that the provisional ballot should have been allowed, then it is counted along with the other ballots from Tuesday.

The only exception is if there is only one accepted provisional ballot.

“If there is only one accepted ballot, then by state statute it is not counted,” Ginger Peters said. “That’s because if only one ballot is accepted, everyone would know who that person voted for.”

Although there are not enough provisional ballots to potentially swing the election results in the auditor’s race, the race is close enough that Democrats are considering their options in terms of a recount.

“We will look at all possibilities,” County chairman Mike Jones said Tuesday night. “In such a close race, I believe that we owe it to all of the voters to see if a recount is warranted. It’s something that we are going to take a look at.”

The win for Gayle Rayles marked a thrilling end to what was a razor-close race all night long. The Republican challenger won a split of the county’s 12 precincts – winning six to Rachel Schuler’s six – but the margins in those winning precincts was enough to overcome narrow losses in the other six.

Gayle Rayles won Craig I by a 75-61 total; Craig II by a 88-71 total; Pleasant I by a 69-45 mark; Pleasant II by a 157-128 mark; Posey II by a 150-118 margin; and York by her biggest margin of the night, 190-116.

Rachel Schuler won Cotton I by a 183-142 margin; Cotton II by a 106-64 mark; Jefferson I by a 191-146 margin; Jefferson III by a 142-110 margin; and Posey I by a 122-100 mark.

The centerpiece of the closeness of the race came in Jefferson II precinct – the county’s largest – where Rachel Schuler won by a 240 to 239 margin – just a single vote.

As the final ballots were announced in the courthouse on Tuesday night, a jubilant Gayle Rayles hugged family and friends and talked about how much help she’s received, especially during the past two weeks after she broke her shoulder in a fall.

“Absolutely thrilled,” Gayle Rayles said about her victory. “One vote more would have made me happy. I just can’t thank my friends enough. Being incapacitated for the past couple of weeks, they’ve just stepped up to the plate and done everything for me. It’s been wonderful. A true blessing.”

So now Gayle Rayles begins the task of readying herself to take over the auditor’s office come January 1st, and she knows there’s a lot to do.

“Well, we now prepare to become the new auditor and see what kind of changes and improvements we can make in the office,” she said. “Great public service is what I promised, and I intend to keep that promise to the people of this county.”