BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – After Thursday’s recount, some don’t think the Benton Harbor mayoral race is final. Incumbent mayor Wilce Cooke, who was defeated by James Hightower on election night and at Thursday’s recount, says the race is far from over.
The recount revealed that Hightower beat Cooke by eight votes. The win was by the same margin as Hightower’s victory on election night. Cooke says there still will be an investigation into information he has that absentee ballots were tampered with prior to the election.
“I think it’s not over yet,” said Cooke, a few minutes after the four hour recount was complete. Cooke said he still won’t concede. More than 1200 ballots were manually counted tonight and put back through the counting machine.
All four city precincts came back perfect with no errors. Absentee votes showed some discrepancies. Cooke got two extra votes and so did James Hightower. County Clerk Denise Stine said absentee ballots are more prone to error because they are folded and sent through the mail. Sometime a shadow from the fold will cause the machine to make a mistake.
Cooke pushed for a manual recount of the absentee ballots but was denied by Stine. “There were some discrepancies there. A manual count would have really shown what was right and wrong if there was anything right and wrong,” said Cooke
Cooke says he wasn’t surprised by the results but said he’s still not the loser. “The next step in the process will take care of that,” he said. Cooke said there will be an investigation into police intimidation at the polls and whether the absentee ballots were tampered with.
There is no word on who will actually be doing the investigating in this case.
James Hightower said he isn’t worried about an investigation. He looking forward to becoming Benton Harbor’s next mayor.