Representative Price

Justin Price

Republican State Rep. Justin Price has reviewed and signed all paperwork for a recount in the 39th House District as he readies to meet a state filing deadline of 4 p.m. Tuesday. The likelihood is it will trigger the formal recount process, which state officials said will be conducted on Thursday or Friday.

The problem, the four-term representative said Monday, is that the process is moving forward despite the fact that not all votes have been tallied, and no winner has been declared.

“My deadline is (Tuesday) afternoon, a full week after the election, and yet I have no ability to obtain any information regarding votes and there is no ability for my team to review any of the data,” Price said. “I have no way of trying to determine if there is a reason to call for the recount or if there is any area that the recount should be focused on.”

By 3 p.m. Monday, election results posted by the Rhode Island Board of Elections showed Democrat challenger Megan Cotter still holding on to a 29-vote lead over Price, 3,024-2,995. Unaffiliated candidate Sean Patrick Comella received 670 votes and is eliminated from contention.

Rhode Island Board of Elections Deputy Director Miguel J. Nunez confirmed Monday that there is no official winner yet and “there are still a number of ballots that could be delivered or corrected by 4 p.m. (Tuesday).”

State election laws allowed for the delivery of provisional ballots from towns through 4 p.m. on Monday, a deadline that still had not come when Nunez spoke with The Sun. To make matters more confusing, military or overseas ballots and those who received notice to correct a deficient mail ballot may still address issues and file their ballot or correction by 4 p.m. Tuesday.

“We will not know what the final count will be by deadline (to file for recount),” he said.

Part of the challenge for Price is that there are no automatic recounts in Rhode Island. Under the state’s election laws, any challenger in an election for a single seat has until 4 p.m. on the Tuesday following Election Day to file for the recount. Price trails by both less than 200 votes and less than 2%, the two criteria that allow him to trigger a recount.

Cotter said that given the small difference in votes, she expected that Price would call for a recount.

With Cotter’s lead swelling right before the holiday weekend — the Board of Elections updated vote totals at 4:32 p.m. Thursday and offices closed Friday for Veterans Day — she expressed thanks to supporters on social media in a message that announced her win on Friday morning.

“While the count is close, my team is confident and comfortable that when the last provisional ballot is counted, I will be the duly elected representative for the 39th District,” she said in a phone conversation Friday.

Price said Monday that while he recognizes it will be difficult to make up ground, it is not impossible and he is concerned about a process that will require him to seek a recount to an election that he hasn’t yet lost. If he does not take action, though, Price acknowledged that he could only then seek to appeal through a Supreme Court that has been vocal about not wanting to rule on elections.

No matter what should happen with the seat, Price said he believes this election exposes potential flaws in Rhode Island’s system that will need to be adjusted to assure more fair and open elections in the future.

“There is something wrong; this process needs to be reviewed,” Price said. “There are flaws in the system, and they need to be identified and addressed.”

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