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What a Potential Sheriff’s Recount Means for Christian County


Just four votes separated Brad Cole from his closest challenger in last week’s election for the Christian County sheriff. Now, runner up Ralph Phillips is petitioning for a hand recount.

“Anytime you’ve got that close, even if you don’t think it’s going to make a difference, your supporters, they want you to do it, just to make sure,” explains Norma Ryan, Christian County’s chief deputy clerk.

On Monday at 10am, Judge Laura Johnson will rule on the petition, and determine if a recount will ensue, and what type of recount is necessary.

“The judge will determine if it’s okay for it to be a hand count, or if she prefers it is done by machine. But generally, she’s going to go with what the petition asks for,” says Ryan.

If the judge does rule in favor of Phillips, 28 Christian County election judges will then spend a day carefully going through the 6,546 ballots (Cole won by a count of 3,275 votes to 3,271).

“If they require the hand count, they will start at 8:30 in the morning and will work until they get done, with a break for lunch. It will probably take all day,” says Ryan.

Monday’s ruling will also determine who is financially responsible for the process. In other words, whether Phillips will pay for the recount or the county’s election fund will.

Ryan, who has worked in the clerk’s office for over 12 years, says she cannot recall a similar case where the petitioning individual was asked to pay. If the county is ordered to pay, she estimates it cost will be less than $1,000.

“It’s not going to be that expensive. It’s not like a whole election. You don’t have to print your ballots again…you mainly just have the judges and their time, because they’re going over the same ballots.”

In April 2014, the Nixa City Council requested a recount on a capital improvement sales tax proposal. The recount did show five additional yes votes and six more no votes, but did not change the original outcome.

Ryan adds, “I think, several years ago, there were a couple of recounts where it actually made a difference, but we didn’t have the machines that we have now; we weren’t as advanced.”

Meanwhile, newly elected Christian County Sheriff Brad Cole has already made big changes since taking over the department last Friday, firing seven deputies and demoted two, as reported by the Springfield News-Leader. He’s even hired Phillips as a lieutenant in the department. But Cole told KY3-TV the Cole the recount filing does not affect his decision to hire his former opponent.

Calls seeking comment from both officials on Thursday were not returned by deadline. In a Facebook post, however, Phillip did confirm that he has been hired as a lieutenant, but said it will not effect his pursuit of a recount.

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