It’s official: Gayle Rayles is new auditor

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Last Thursday saw a major winter storm strike the Switzerland County area; but it didn’t stop the official recount that took place in the contested race for County Auditor.

And, once all of the votes were totaled, the outcome of the November 2nd General Election was upheld and Gayle Rayles was officially declared the winner – but her margin of victory was even smaller.

On Election Night, Gayle Rayles defeated incumbent Rachel Schuler by seven votes: 1,530 to 1,523 – prompting a request for a recount by the Switzerland County Democratic Central Committee.

After the Recount Commission of John Keeton, Jim Wingate, and Kyle Conrad of GBS Systems finished their work on Thursday, that margin had shrunk to just four votes, but Gayle Rayles still garnered the most votes.

In the request for the recount, the county Democratic party asked for six of the county’s 12 precincts to be recounted: Craig I, Craig II, Pleasant I, Pleasant II, Posey II, and York.

Switzerland County Judge Greg Coy said that as those precincts were recounted by the commission, Gayle Rayles had one vote taken away because on an absentee ballot that was cast prior to Election Day, there was one signature missing from one of the party representatives, as required by state law.

That lowered her final total to 1,529 votes.

Rachel Schuler picked up two additional votes during the recount - one was an absentee ballot that had been marked in pencil and was not counted by the card reader at the time of the election. For that ballot, the recount commission determined that the intent of that voter was clear, so that vote was counted.

The second vote came when a precinct vote tally was one short on Election Day from what it was on Thursday during the recount.

“The Recount Commission hand counted the ballots multiple times to verify the number of ballots,” Judge Coy said. “It determined that for some unknown reason the election day count was one less than the actual number.”

With that vote also going to Rachel Schuler, that raised her final total to 1,525 votes.

Once the recount was complete, Judge Coy certified the recount and the results were sent to the state.

“As Judge, I would like to commend a number of people for their efforts,” Judge Coy said. “Ginger Peters and her staff, and all the people who worked the polls on election day. A net change of three votes out of over 3,000 cast means an error rate of less than one-tenth of one percent.”

Judge Coy also commended local Recount Commission members John Keeton and Jim Wingate; and also Kyle Conrad of GBS Systems, who was required by state statute to be a part of the commission because he represented the company that the county purchased the election equipment from.

“We also need to commend our two candidates,” the Judge said. “We had two outstanding candidates for office, who at one point during the recount could be seen sitting at the same table chatting. I greatly appreciated their demeanor during this process.”

Gayle Rayles will now officially be sworn in during ceremonies that will be held on Friday, December 31st, at 10 a.m. in the courtroom.