New vote totals show Wood leads State Representative race

Published 2:56 pm Wednesday, July 18, 2018

VALLEY — The Republican run-off for District 38 State Representative currently sits as too close to call, with six votes currently separating the two candidates and 46 provisional ballots left untallied.

On Tuesday night, Todd Rauch was declared the winner of the race, but new vote totals on the Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill’s website Wednesday morning show Debbie Wood ahead by the smallest of margins.

According to the Secretary of State’s website, Wood earned 2,165 votes, or 50.07 percent, against Rauch’s, 2,159 votes, or 49.93 percent.

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On Tuesday, other media organizations reported Rauch had won the race by 137 votes, 2,302-2,165. The Valley Times-News made the decision after midnight to follow suit and reported Rauch as the winner in the July 18 edition of the newspaper, as final results were not available from the Secretary of State’s website at the press deadline. With the updated information from the Secretary of State’s website this morning, it appears Wood leads one of the closest state Senate races in recent memory.

The provisional votes will be counted Tuesday, July 24 at noon CT. Chambers County has six provisional votes and Lee County has 40.

A provisional ballot is cast when a voter tells a poll worker that he or she wanted to vote for a candidate whose name is not on their ballot. In those instances, records indicate that the voter does not live in the district where the candidate is running for office. Voters are allowed to dispute that finding and vote by provisional ballot.

On Tuesday, the Board of Registrars will determine if registered voters live in the district they wanted to vote in. If they are, their provisional ballot will be counted. In most cases, Wood added, the provisional votes aren’t counted, because registrars determine voters do not live in that district.

Wood, who had gone to bed Tuesday believing she had lost, was awoken around 1 a.m. Wednesday morning to a call that she had won by six votes.

“That’s the best way I’ve ever been woken up,” she said. “It was a lot better than going to bed thinking you’d won and to get up the next morning to find out you’d lost.”

Wood earned 1,076 votes in Lee County to Rauch’s 1,622. Lee County Probate Judge Bill English verified those numbers Wednesday morning to the Valley Times-News. In Chambers County, Wood pulled in 1,089 votes to Rauch’s 537, per Chambers County Probate Judge Brandy Easlick. Other media organizations have reported that Rauch received 680 votes in the county.

“This race has not been about Valley or Opelika or Beulah or Lake Harding,” Wood said. “It has been about providing leadership for the citizens of District 38. I am humbled to be ahead by six votes. Does every vote count? Yes! I want to thank each and every one of you who went to the polls. Next Tuesday, the provisional ballots will be reviewed, and a decision made as to their validity. You will never know what it has meant to me and my family for all the love and support provided me during this election.”

Rauch said he was grateful for the support he has received, both in the June 5th party primary and in Tuesday’s runoff.

“From the start, this campaign has done so much with so little, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way,” Rauch said, adding that his race was not well-financed but that lots of hard work went into it. “My wife, Ali, has been so supportive of me all the way, and I appreciate that so much. I also appreciate the hard work we’ve gotten from some dedicated volunteers.”

Following the provisional votes being counted next Tuesday, the candidate with the lowest number of votes will have the option to request a recount.

John Bennett, Deputy Chief of Staff with the Alabama Secretary of State’s office, said that unlike in a general election where an automatic recount is triggered if the result is decided by less than 0.5 percent, a candidate would have to request the action and would have to pay for the process, which includes bringing in poll workers and any other added costs. The current difference between the candidates is only .14 percent.

Bennett added that when voter turnout is low like it was on Tuesday, in which only 12.7 percent of registered voters turned out, the chance of a close race increases.

Rauch agreed with Wood that this race is a testament to the notion that every vote counts.

“Every single vote is important,” he said. “We are always asking people to make plans to vote by absentee ballot if they can’t make it to their polling place on election day. As an Army veteran, I understand what the right to vote means. It is something our soldiers have fought and died for throughout our nation’s history. I thank each person who exercises this privilege.”

Wood led the field in the June 5 Republican primary, but fell just short of the 50 percent of the vote required to win without a runoff.

That put her and Rauch, the runner-up in the primary, in a runoff.

The eventual winner will face Brian McGee in the November general election. McGee won the Democratic nomination without opposition.