District B recount concludes with Banks victory

Seth Bloom, left, and Jay Banks

NEW ORLEANS – Rustling papers and whispers filled New Orleans City Council Chambers Monday as workers meticulously looked through ballots, continuing a recount for the District B Race.

District B City Council Candidate Seth Bloom said there were “voter irregularities” with the absentee ballots, and said he would not concede until there’s a complete recount.

The recount, which wrapped up shortly before lunch, certified Jay Banks as the winner of the contest for the second time.

The Clerk of Court’s office checked the voting machines last week, and solely counting election day voting, they certified Banks as the winner in the November 18 election.

Banks beat Bloom by just 131 votes, according to the Clerk of Court.

Monday, early voting and paper mail-in and absentee ballots handled by the Orleans Parish Registrar Office and Parish Board of Elections were being checked.

Roughly 2,800 city-wide paper ballots went through that were either mailed, faxed, emailed, or hand-counted due to an error if there was a tear or technical problem.

Workers pulled out 525 for District B, making one pile for Banks and one for Bloom. Bloom’s campaign manager says they found some discrepancies with the numbers and are trying to determine why. Voters do have the option to “under vote” (essentially not vote) for certain races, so that could be why the numbers conflict.

After looking at the scanned ballots, they found 246 for Jay Banks and 255 for Seth Bloom. Here’s some of the other paper ballot recount results:

Representatives for both Bloom and Banks were on hand, as well as a number of local elections officials.

This process is expected to take roughly two hours. Then early voting ballot tapes will be looked at after the paper ballot count.

The District B City Council seat was left vacant when Councilwoman Latoya Cantrell ran for mayor and won.

Seth Bloom issued the following statement following the conclusion of the recount:

“This was a hard-fought race and obviously very close. Our volunteers and supporters never gave up, working tirelessly to the very last hour on election day. With a switch of only 66 votes changing the outcome, I felt an obligation to my supporters and the voters of District B to make sure the process was fair and accurate. I also ran on a platform of transparency and accountability, so we wanted to make sure the process was handled appropriately by the officials responsible. In our review and analysis of the election results we uncovered that there were a significant number of discrepancies and irregularities. We owe it to the citizens of New Orleans to make changes to increase transparency and voter confidence in the election process. For instance, to at least avoid the appearance of a conflict there should be a review of the policies of the Board of Election Supervisors. Individuals should not arbitrate the outcome of an election involving a candidate they have publicly supported. The rules which prohibit judges from participating in politics would seem more appropriate. We appreciate the assistance we received from those involved in the recount. Though we did find concerning irregularities in the numbers, there was no way to determine which candidate received those votes or if it would have changed the outcome. The results are now official and I congratulate our new District B Councilman, Jay Banks. Jay has my full support in working to improve our district and our city. To my many dedicated volunteers and supporters, I must again express my sincere thanks and deep appreciation for their unwavering commitment. I also want to give a special thanks to Eugene Ben-Oluwole, Dr. Catherine Love and Dr. Andre Strumer for their support and personal commitment to improving our district.”