Incumbent state Land Commissioner Ray Powell asked the state Supreme Court on Monday to temporarily halt an automatic recount of votes in the contested land commissioner race, alleging the state Canvassing Board has violated state law and the election code. The last unofficial election results showed Powell, a Democrat, losing by a 704-vote margin to Republican challenger Aubrey Dunn out of 499,666 votes cast, or about 0.14 percent of the votes. State law calls for an automatic recount when the margin between two statewide candidates is less than half of 1 percent of ballots cast. Dunn maintained a slim lead through post-election canvassing by county clerks and the state Canvassing Board. But Powell alleges there have been several irregularities, including the vote recount order approved by the state Canvassing Board on Nov. 25.
Powell’s petition contends the vote recount process described in the order doesn’t follow state law and won’t properly check the accuracy of vote tabulating machines. “We want to ensure the statutes are followed,” Powell said in a telephone interview Monday. “We’re asking for a uniform use of the statute so all of the counties are counted fairly.”
A central part of the dispute is over whether state law clearly outlines the recount procedure or whether it should be up to the secretary of state to dictate the process. Rod Adair, spokesman for Secretary of State Dianna Duran, said the recount procedure laid out in the order will actually ensure greater accuracy than what Powell wants. “The secretary of state is saying there cannot be any error at all. If even one vote is in error from a voting machine, there will be a new machine,” Adair said.