Election results were still on a razor thin margin Wednesday for an incumbent and challenger in Mandan’s city commission race.
Nine votes separated Amber Larson and Commissioner Shauna Laber, the second and third top vote-getters, respectively. Morton County Auditor Dawn Rhone said some absentee ballots could still remain to be counted before the county’s canvassing board meets Monday.
If Laber comes within five votes of Larson, or half a percent of top vote-getter Dennis Rohr's total, that would trigger a mandatory recount, Rhone said. Commissioner Rohr received 974 votes to clinch a third term, in unofficial results.
Rhone also said Laber may request a recount if the difference in votes is between 0.5 and 2 percent of Rohr's total. Laber would have to pay to request a recount and would not be reimbursed.
Nothing is certain until at least Monday. A demand for a recount must come within three days of the canvassing board meeting, said Rhone, adding this is the first instance that could result in a recount in her seven years as auditor.
Laber said she doesn't plan to request a recount as elections are “usually pretty accurate” and “nine votes is pretty far.”
“(I’ll) go ahead and let Amber get started with whatever she needs to get done, and I will move on to other things,” she said.
She has a number of irons in the fire, including the board of directors for Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota, Mandan’s Planning and Zoning Commission and the Mandan School Board’s committee for policy and personnel.
“None of those things go away because I’m not on the city commission,” Laber said. “I will still be highly active in our community, just in another capacity.”
Larson said she was glad for the competitive election and awaits its final outcome. She also said such a close election highlights the need for greater participation.
“There’s always a frustration with the low voter turnout, in an election like this, coming down to the wire of literally every single vote," she said. "I’m really hoping that it just again shows our citizens how important and valuable it is to go out there and vote and how much their votes really do and truly matter for the direction of the city."
Rhone said voter turnout for the primary was “pretty low" and typical, but was much higher than the 2014 primary — perhaps due to the uncontested Mandan City Commission race then.
About 3,340 voters participated in Tuesday’s primary in Morton County —roughly 14 percent of those eligible, according to the North Dakota Secretary of State’s website.