TAHLEQUAH, Okla. -- According to the certified results from a July 2 recount, William "Bill" Pearson has beaten Keith Austin by six votes to win the Dist. 14 Tribal Council seat.
Original certified results from the June 27 general election showed Pearson receiving 534 votes for 50.5 percent of the ballots cast, while Austin garnered 533 votes for 49.95 percent.
Austin filed for a recount, which the tribe's Election Commission performed. After that recount, Pearson had 525 votes for 50.2 percent compared to Austin's 519 votes at 49.7 percent.
The votes tabulated during the recount consisted of precinct, absentee, early absentee and precinct challenged.
The recount had 23 votes less compared to the original count. EC officials said that occurred because of human error when inputting votes.
"The challenged ballots from the districts were processed on Sunday (June 28) beginning at "1 p.m. through 12:11 a.m. on Monday and resulted in 349 out of approximately 700 challenged ballots being accepted," an EC statement reads. "The 349 ballots were then fed through a voting machine that was pre-defined for absentees, to get the vote count for the various races and candidates. The card from the machine was then placed in the computer to print out the challenged vote results. And unbeknownst to the operator it recorded the ballots as absentee votes then the operator took the printout of challenged ballots and manually entered them for the appropriate race and candidate, resulting in the 349 votes being entered twice."
The EC statement also reads that once this was discovered, those votes entered into the machine under absentee were removed. The challenged votes that were correctly placed in districts remained in those districts.
"Resulting in the 349 being correctly counted," the release stated.
The Cherokee Phoenix contacted Pearson but he was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.
In an email statement, Austin did not state whether he would appeal the recount results to the Supreme Court but that he appreciated the EC's hard work.
"They have the impossible job of determining a certifiable winner in a race that could not be closer," Austin wrote. "Obviously, we want to work with the Election Commission and the Supreme Court to help determine that the election results are accurate. Cherokees took the time to vote because they have faith in our Nation. We owe it to them to ensure their intentions are honored and their votes count."
The EC certified the recount on July 2 in the presence of Supreme Court justices.
Candidates have until July 6 to appeal election results with the Supreme Court. Provided there are any appeals, the Supreme Court would hear those cases July 7-9.
Candidates elected to office during the general and runoff elections are expected to be sworn in Aug. 14, according to the tribe's election timeline. The runoff election is set for July 25.
Click here to viewthe Explanation of Recalculation of Vote Count document.