Recount Reveals New Winner In Once-Tied Race For Berrien Co. Commissioner

Dec 9, 2020

Credit Screenshot captured via YouTube

Last month, the election for one Berrien County Commission seat ended in a dead tie, and after the County Board of Canvassers failed to find any errors, the winner was decided by a tiebreaker. However, a new winner has been declared after a recount on Dec. 8.

Democratic candidate Rayonte Bell thought his race for the 5th District Commission seat was over when he drew the slip of paper that said “not elected” at the tiebreaker. He decided to ask for a recount, but since the Board of Canvassers didn’t find any errors, he didn’t think the results would change.

“But, I was proven wrong," Bell said, "and it’s always good to be proven wrong, especially when the results favor you.”

Berrien County Election Administrator Sheila Reitz said the recount uncovered 16 absentee ballots that were marked too lightly for the tabulation machines to pick up. But, she says they still met the Bureau of Elections’ validity standards.

Six of those votes went to Bell’s opponent, Republican Bruce Gorenflo, but 10 went to Bell, making him the winner by just four votes.

“I was watching live, and when the Board of Canvassers announced the totals, yeah, I was very excited," Bell said. "I was shocked.”

In a Dec. 8 Facebook post, Gorenflo said, “The closeness of this race has illustrated very clearly the value of every vote, and the value of making sure that voters fill out their entire ballot.”

Bell said he’ll be sworn in at next week’s commission meeting and that he’ll officially take office at the first meeting of 2021.

Contact Gemma at gdicarlo@wvpe.org or follow her on Twitter at @gemma_dicarlo

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