Still a nail-biter: 6 mail-in ballots in Rock Falls mayor’s race outstanding

ROCK FALLS – With 2 more weeks to go before final results are certified – and six mail-in ballots outstanding that include the city of Rock Falls election – it is too soon to declare a winner in the race in which Mayor Bill Wescott trails his challenger, Ward 3 Alderman Rod Kleckler, by a lone vote.

Of the mail-in ballots requested for the consolidated election, 12 arrived today but have not yet been opened, and 47 still have yet to be returned, Whiteside County Clerk Dana Nelson said.

Mail-in ballots postmarked by April 6 will be counted, if they arrive within the next 2 weeks. Not everyone who requests a mail-in ballot actually returns it, Nelson noted.

“It’s going to be a waiting game now,” she said.

The unofficial tally from Tuesday’s election has Kleckler with 404 votes, Wescott with 403.

If Kleckler loses the mayor’s race, he still has 2 years left on his term. If he wins, it will be up to him to appoint his replacement, who will serve the 2 years, then must run for the office.

His first day as mayor would be May 4, when he would be sworn in at the City Council meeting that night.

If he loses, Wescott, who is seeking his third term, said he will seek a recount.

“I’m trying not to be the sore loser,” he said this morning. “‘I’m very sad today. We’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

When a candidate loses a race by 5% of the vote or less, he or she can petition the county clerk for a discovery recount, and 25% of the precincts involved – in Rock Falls’ case, 3 out of the 10 – will be examined for any irregularities, such as problems with the voting machines, and the votes in those precincts recounted.

The recount must be requested within 5 days of the final canvass, and completed within 3 days of the winner being notified in writing of the recount.

It won’t change the election outcome, but the findings can be used to challenge the results in court, if the loser decides to take that course, which comes at his or her expense.

According to state statute 10 ILCS 5/22-9.1:

“The results of the examination and count shall not be certified, used to amend or change the abstracts of the votes previously completed, used to deny the successful candidate for the same office his certificate of nomination or election, nor used to change the previously declared result of the vote on a question of public policy. Such count shall not be binding in an election contest brought about under the provisions of the Election Code, shall not be a prerequisite to bringing such an election contest, shall not prevent the bringing of such an election contest, nor shall it affect the results of the canvass previously proclaimed.”

With him being an old hand and, should he win, two new faces coming to the council – Kleckler’s replacement, and Steven Dowd, who defeated three-term Ward 3 Jim Schuneman, 135 to 103 – Kleckler said the first order of business for him will be getting to know each other while maintaining the council’s momentum.

“We just got to get in there and keep things rolling along and handle things as they come up and present themselves; we‘ve got to get used to working with each other,” he said.

If the race doesn’t go his way, he’ll be disappointed, Wescott said, adding that in that event, “you just have to step aside and hope that the hard work you did here will continue and not be thrown aside.”

Kathleen A. Schultz

Kathleen Schultz is a Sterling native with 40 years of reporting and editing experience in Arizona, California, Montana and Illinois.