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John Ahern seeks futile recount in Spokane City Council race

A Spokane City Council candidate who lost big in his attempt to unseat incumbent Jon Snyder mistakenly believes he still may have a shot at winning.

John Ahern, a former Republican state representative defeated by a nearly 2-to-1 margin in the council race, is paying for a partial recount. But the request targets only about 1,600 ballots – too few to even potentially overcome Snyder’s nearly 5,700-vote margin – and it’s too late under state election laws to broaden it.

“I doorbelled a little over 10,000 homes,” Ahern said Tuesday. “I got a very good reception from just about everybody.”

Ahern’s campaign sent a letter Monday to the Spokane County Auditor’s Office requesting the ballots cast at four precincts be recounted. A check for $429.50 was attached as a down payment for the cost of the hand recount.

Asked in an interview Tuesday if there could be counting errors or fraud found in a recount that could make up the deficit, Ahern said: “You never can tell. It’s worth at least a try.”

Math isn’t on his side, however.

Ahern lost the race by 5,669 votes. He asked for only about 1,600 ballots to be recounted. Of those, 625 already voted for Ahern. Even if all of the remaining ballots were somehow miscounted, that’s nowhere near enough to change the outcome.

In an interview later Tuesday, Ahern acknowledged he hadn’t requested enough ballots to be recounted to change the outcome but still said there is a remote possibility.

“I look at it this way: Life is full of possibilities,” Ahern said.

Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said Monday was the deadline to request a recount and that there’s no provision in the law to allow Ahern to broaden his request. She said he could have requested a full recount and stopped it at any time if it wasn’t turning out the way he hoped.

Spokane County Republican Party Chairman Ben Oakley said he was unaware that Ahern would make a recount request until after Ahern submitted it. He said the party is not involved and will not finance the recount.

State law allows candidates to pay for a recount even if a race isn’t close. Dalton said the partial recount will cost about $1,500. If the final tally had been within a half percentage point, Ahern would not have had to pay for a recount.

Snyder beat Ahern 12,286 to 6,617. It was a huge defeat for a candidate who won several races for state representative. But he lost the seat in 2008 to Democrat John Driscoll in an election so close a recount was required by law. Driscoll’s 74-vote lead before the recount declined by two when ballots were double-checked.

Of the 50 precincts in the council district, Snyder won 48, Ahern won one and they tied in one.

One of the four precincts that Ahern asked to be recounted is the only precinct he won, the western half of the Eagle Ridge subdivision in Latah Valley.

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