Ferndale City Council recount affirms election result

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published December 5, 2023


FERNDALE — A recount was initiated and completed for the Ferndale City Council election, and the result remained the same.

The Nov. 7 election saw Donnie Johnson and Rolanda Kelley voted to seats on the Ferndale City Council. However, the third candidate in the race, Dennis Whittie, finished closely behind Kelley.

The official election results from mid-November counted Kelley’s votes at 2,372 and Whittie’s votes at 2,360, a 12-vote difference.

On Nov. 27, Whittie requested a recount from the Oakland County Board of Canvassers.

Whittie stated in a press release announcing the recount that he didn’t suspect any wrongdoing in the election and that he trusts the election process. He also had heard from his supporters to request a recount.

“The difference was less than one-quarter of one percent, so I just want to confirm the result,” he said in the press release. “I am not alleging anything or accusing anyone of wrongdoing; I just feel the results are close enough that it makes sense to ask for a recount. Our elections process works because there are checks and balances like this.”

Whittie requested all absentee votes, early voting and in-person voting to be recounted, the release stated. He paid the fee of $25 per precinct, which totaled $675.

The recount took place Nov. 29 at the Oakland County Elections office in Pontiac before Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown and Director of Elections Joe Rozell.

Brown said the county recounted absentee ballots, ballots from the early voting and Election Day ballots, though there was one precinct’s ballots that couldn’t be recounted because the ballot bag was not sealed correctly.

After the county finished the recount, both Kelley and Whittie each got two more votes, keeping the final vote difference at 12.

“The issue of why they each picked up two was from ballots that were cast on Election Day from voters who — to talk about how sensitive our equipment is — had what we call either a stray pen mark and ink mark or a pen rest,” said Brown. “There’s just, like, a little mark inside the third candidate’s marking area on the ballot. Looking at it, anyone and everyone actually agreed that that was not a true over vote. That voter did not have the intent to vote for all three. It was just like a little pen mark from … resting their pen and it picked it up. So when those voters cast their ballot on Election Day, they were notified from our equipment that the machine was picking it up as an overvote and they clearly said … accept it as is, meaning because the equipment viewed it as an over vote, that those votes weren’t counted in the grand total.”

Though the result remained the same, Whittie said he was glad he did the recount.

“It was so razor thin that I thought everybody in Ferndale deserved a recount,” he told the Woodward Talk. “I didn’t necessarily think the result would change, but I thought the recount was important, just to confirm the integrity of our election process. Going through this process and seeing the recount, I am confident in our election integrity.”

Kelley will take her seat on the Ferndale City Council at the beginning of next year.

“It feels great to be able to move forward and do what I was elected to do and represent the voices of Ferndale,” she said to the Talk. “Every vote matters; it just shows that. This goes to show whether it’s 12 votes or one vote, it’s a win.”

After the recount was completed, she issued a statement on Facebook commending Whittie’s “commitment to a thorough review of the election results.”

“Thank you to all who made their voices heard — it’s your convictions that drive positive change,” she wrote.

“I am glad I can finally put this behind me so I can focus on what I was elected to do, which is to give a voice to the people of Ferndale on City Council. I’m grateful for the trust placed in me.”