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Oakland Co. official goes from loss to win after 'technical glitch' in vote totals

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Rochester Hills — A narrow defeat in an Oakland County commissioner race Tuesday has now turned into a big victory for the incumbent following a corrected “glitch” in vote tabulations.

Adam Kochenderfer, R-Rochester Hills, went to bed Tuesday night believing, with all precincts reporting, he had lost his seat on the 21-member Board of Commissioners to Democratic challenger Melanie Hartman by 104 votes — 19,448 to 19,344.

Adam Kochenderfer

But there was a problem: According to Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown, the total from seven precincts in the city had been reported twice.

The first set of results was labeled precinct ballots and the second set was labeled absentee ballots, Brown said in a statement. However, the two sets were, in actuality, the same set of absentee ballots.

The final corrected tally: Kochenderfer with 16,893 votes and Hartman with 15,766. Kochenderfer had won by 1,127 votes.

 “This is proof that our process of checks and balances works. A methodical canvass is an essential tool to ensure an accurate count and precise results,” Brown said.

Rochester Hills officials referred to the error as a "technical glitch” that the city self-reported in the early morning hours Wednesday.

In a statement posted Friday on Twitter, City Clerk Tina Barton said, "This was an isolated mistake that was quickly rectified once realized. Every voter should have complete confidence in our voting system."

Kochenderfer, a former city councilman who will now serve a third term as a county commissioner representing Rochester Hills and Rochester city, said he had never considered seeking a recount in his narrow loss. He said he was initially in “disbelief” when informed Wednesday of the error.

 “While I’m grateful for the outcome, we must conduct a thorough review of our system to prevent this from happening again,” he said.

Kochenderfer thanked officials for catching the error and correcting the vote tabulation.

“I’m also cognizant of the fact that my opponent has experienced the mirror image of my own roller coaster during the past 36 hours,” Kochenderfer said. “Candidates and their families put countless hours into these elections.

"While we disagree on some topics, Dr. Hartman made excellent points during her campaign about the need to support mental health programs during this trying time. I invite her to work with me to explore ways we can boost mental health, particularly addressing frontline workers who may be facing a difficult winter as COVID cases continue to rise.”

Hartman offered Kochenderfer her congratulations when contacted Friday and agreed steps need to be taken to prevent such an error from occurring again.

"While I’m disappointed in the results, I trust in our election professionals and poll workers to make certain all votes are counted, and counted correctly," she said. "The system works and Oakland County Elections caught the mistake made by the Rochester Hills City Clerk’s Office. I hope new steps are put in place to prevent an error like this from happening in the future.

 "I want to congratulate Commissioner Adam Kochenderfer on his re-election, and offer my commitment to work together for the betterment of our community," she added.

“This has been one strange year — here’s hoping to a more normal 2021,” Kochenderfer said.

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

(248) 338-0319