Hyde Park Precincts Will Undergo Recount for Fifth Ward Aldermanic Election

Activist William Calloway challenged incumbent Leslie Hairston’s win, citing machine errors and discrepancies in precinct staff.


Challenger William Calloway (left) and incumbent Fifth Ward Hairston (right)

By Dimitriy Leksanov

Fifth Ward aldermanic candidate William Calloway officially petitioned for a discovery recount on Friday for several precincts in the Fifth Ward runoff election.

Incumbent Leslie Hairston was declared the winner in the race at a Board of Elections (BOE) hearing on Thursday, with a margin of victory of 176 votes. However, because the new term officially commences on May 20, there is still time for a recount.

“We owe it to the Fifth Ward to do this recount process,” Calloway said following Thursday’s hearing.

Calloway’s campaign is challenging ballot counts in 10 precincts, most of which are in the northern part of the ward and around Hyde Park. Hairston is currently in the lead in all the districts in question.

Following the hearing, Calloway’s attorney, Elizabeth Homsy, said that the recount would have to do in part with a machine malfunction in the eighth precinct, as well as alleged instances at polling places in several other precincts in which fewer judges than the amount required appeared.

“We’ve seen discrepancies in the last election… in terms of whether judges were present on site,” she said. “It makes it difficult to monitor these elections without sufficient staff.”

In filing for the case, Calloway also cited alleged instances of workers mishandling mail-in ballots, ineligible voters casting ballots, and voters given ballots for the Sixth Ward in precincts where the voting site was shared between the two wards. When asked about the alleged voting and tabulating machine errors, BOE spokesman Jim Allen told The Maroon he was not aware of any errors.

The recount is expected to happen by either April 24 or 25, with the Calloway campaign unsure as to the exact date, after which Hairston’s campaign is expected to file a motion to dismiss. A status hearing will then be held on Thursday, May 2, at 11:30 a.m.

In the fifth and eighth precincts, discrepancies between the precincts’ returns and the total number of votes cast triggered required recount of votes. These discrepancies prompted questioning from the Calloway campaign regarding the accuracy of other precinct counts in the ward.

“That discrepancy in votes led William to question whether other precincts that had registered errors on Election Day also have vote discrepancies,” said campaign manager Bobby Burns in a statement to The Maroon.

The difference in votes between Hairston and Calloway fluctuated as mail-in ballots were counted. By Board of Elections rules, all valid mail-in ballots were counted by Tuesday, April 16. As of 7:30 p.m. that day, Board of Elections (BOE) data had Calloway behind Hairston by 176 votes. The difference has fluctuated between 170 and 176 votes since election night.

Hairston’s lead in the northern precincts comes despite third-place finisher Gabriel Piemonte’s endorsement of Calloway. Piemonte won many of the precincts around the University and in Hyde Park in February, and has acted as an advisor to Calloway since after the February general election.

Piemonte told The Maroon that Calloway’s loss may be the result of a number of factors. Calloway faced controversy after Facebook posts he wrote in 2015 against the legalization of gay marriage resurfaced shortly before the runoff election. Piemonte said he thinks the way the campaign handled this issue “could have been executed more smoothly.” He also said the fact that most of Calloway’s resources were focused in the South Shore neighborhood in the southern part of the ward could have hurt