News Briefs

Missouri House committee rejects call for recount in close St. Charles County district

By: - March 22, 2023 2:31 pm

State Rep. Adam Schwadron, R-St. Charles, speaks during a 2022 hearing of the House Health and Mental Health Policy Committee (Tim Bommel/Missouri House Communications).

On a party-line vote, a Missouri House committee on Wednesday rejected a request for a recount in a legislative district decided by 99 votes in the November election.

Democratic members of the Special Committee on Election Contests voted against the decision to deny a recount. Majority Republicans said they opposed the recount because the challenger, Democratic nominee Cindy Berne, did not allege any irregularities in her loss to Republican Adam Schwadron in the 105th District in St. Charles County.

“We have tried in every way we could to evaluate what has taken place,” said Rep. Dan Stacy, R-Blue Springs, who served as the chairman of the committee.

Under state law, a candidate who loses by less than 1% of the vote has the right to ask for a recount. The margin in the 105th District was 0.91% of the 10,951 votes cast. Schwadron received 5,404, or 49.35%, to Berne’s 5,305, or 48.44%, with Libertarian candidate Michael Carver picking up the remainder. 

In its report to the House, the committee focused on the issue of irregularities, noting that Berne had not alleged any. Various state statutes, the report states, indicate that the committee has discretion to turn down the request if the person contesting the election hasn’t shown that there is uncertainty about enough votes to potentially change the outcome.

Rep. Kimberly-Ann Collins, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said Berne deserved a recount even without an allegation of issues with the vote. 

“That is not what we should be focused on,” Collins said.

The statute on recounts where the margin is less than 1% says the losing candidate “shall have the right to a recount,” Collins noted.

“The gist of this is that they are owed a recount because it is less than 1% and that is what’s in statute,” she said.

Republicans on the committee pushed back, saying that the recount is discretionary when there are no other issues raised about how the election was conducted.

“It should be used sparingly when there are not irregularities to point to,” Rep. Peggy McGaugh, R-Carrollton and a former county clerk.

Stacy said extensive research showed that other statutes describing the circumstances triggering a recount and governing the power of the committee gave it the ability to turn down Berne’s request.

“I believe we have been very thorough,” Stacy said. “I feel we have followed the statute.”

The Missouri Constitution makes the House the sole judge of election contests for its members. There is no right to appeal the committee’s decision to the courts.

If a recount had overturned the result, it would have been the fourth seat picked up by Democrats from the 2022 election. There are 52 Democrats and 111 Republicans in the 163-member House. 

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Rudi Keller
Rudi Keller

Rudi Keller covers the state budget and the legislature. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he spent 22 of his 32 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics for the Columbia Daily Tribune, where he won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.