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Rochester Hills write-in count starts; mayor ‘honored’

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Rochester Hills — Still groggy from a late-night victory party, Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett said Wednesday he was trying to return more than 200 phone calls and congratulations for what appears to be a historic write-in victory in Oakland County.

“I have so many people to thank,” the slightly hoarse Barnett said. He also spent part of Wednesday taking down 1,700 campaign signs posted in yards around the city.

“We really didn’t know how we were going to handle today, but we expect when all the votes are checked, I will be on top,” Barnett said. “I’m humbled and I’m honored.”

The Oakland County Board of Canvassers and County Elections Division began going over precinct sheets Wednesday in a laborious but necessary process to check the number of votes garnered by Barnett, a term-limited mayor who ran as a write-in candidate.

Part of the process is accepting various write-in spellings of Barnett’s name — at least 15 versions appeared on ballots in one precinct alone, reported Jospeh Rozell, director of elections. Staff also considered eliminating all invalid votes, such as those cast for “Mickey Mouse” or “Me.”

“We have sheets for 32 polling precincts to examine,” said Rozell, whose staff members were counting returns from elections in 28 communities.

“We are to rule on what is believed the intent of the voter — be it Brian or Bryan. A Barnett or Barnette. Or whatever.”

The count had not been completed as of late Wednesday afternoon.

Of 17,848 total votes cast for mayor in Rochester Hills, unofficially 53.46 percent were write-ins and suspected to be designated for Barnett. Ravi Yalamanchi, a former city councilman and ballot-designated candidate, received 38.78 percent, and a third candidate, Jim Stevens, received 7.76 percent.

Yalamanchi conceded the election in a post on his Facebook page, where he thanked all of his supporters for their help and friendship during the campaign.

“This was an incredible journey in which lifelong friendships were made,” Yalamanchi wrote. “Congratulations to Mayor Barnett. The City of Rochester Hills will move forward. I would like to thank my great friends and supporters who walked, worked and gave their great time talent and friendship. My heart and soul are grateful for the opportunity to gain so many friendships. This time has left an indelible mark on my soul. Anitha and I were privileged for your support.”

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