Atlanta Mayor: Reed or Recount?

Kasim Reed and Mary Norwood have disagreed on a lot in their race for mayor of Atlanta, so it's fitting that they disagree on ...
by | December 2, 2009

Kasim Reed and Mary Norwood have disagreed on a lot in their race for mayor of Atlanta, so it's fitting that they disagree on something else: Whether or not Reed was elected mayor last night.

Reed, a former state senator, active Democrat and pupil of outgoing mayor Shirley Franklin, leads by 758 over Norwood, an independent city council member who would have been the city's first white mayor elected in 40 years. Is 758 votes (out of about 83,000 cast) enough to guarantee that a recount won't reverse the election's results?

There are no guarantees in politics, but I'd say that 758 votes, while a narrow victory, is also a pretty clear one. The results of U.S. House races that are decided by around 758 votes almost never change in recounts and U.S. House races almost always have more than 83,000 votes cast.

When results do change after election day, often it's because ballots are still being counted. For example, in the Nassau County Executive's race last month, Tom Suozzi led by 237 votes on election night, but now faces a 386-vote deficit (He just conceded defeat).

The main reason for that reversal of 600-plus votes, however, was that thousands of absentee ballots were counted after election day. In Atlanta, all that's left is 700 provisional ballots. Even if all those ballots ended up being accepted (unlikely) and Norwood took, say, 60% of them (also unlikely), she'd only make a 140-vote dent in Reed's lead.

That said, from time to time elections officials do make mistakes that shift results fairly dramatically. Even though it didn't change the winner of the election, we just had an example of that in New York's 23rd congressional district. One county's results shifted by more than 1,200 votes after election day.

So, in the spirit of post-election unity, I'd say that both Norwood and Reed are right. Norwood is right not to concede. What's the harm in letting the process play out a little bit longer? But, Reed's also quite likely right when he says he'll be the next mayor of Atlanta.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com  | 

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