SAVOY – In the Champaign County town of Savoy, the election for a village board seat is still too close to call.
Incumbent trustees Jan Carter Niccum and A. J. Ruggieri were tied for the third of three available at-large seats with 380 votes apiece, according to the unofficial count on the night of the April 6 election. When the count was updated on Friday, April 9, Carter Niccum was ahead of Ruggieri by just two votes, 412-410. Newcomer Larry Kanfer and incumbent trustee Heather J. Mangian were leading for the first and second village board seats with 657 and 534 votes respectively.
The shifting prospects for Carter Niccum and Ruggieri could shift again, if more mail-in ballots arrive before the election results are certified. If the results remain close, Carter Niccum says he expects a recount to be sought.
“Possibly,” said Carter Niccum of the likelihood of a recount request, from him or Ruggieri. “We’ll have to see what the numbers look like at the end. That will be on the 20th of April. That’s when they’re supposed to certify the vote. So we’ll see where it’s at then.”
Carter Niccum says he was once tied with another candidate when he ran for re-election in 2013. But that election was uncontested, with three seats and just three candidates. This time, Carter Niccum says he will just have to wait and see if he is elected for a fifth term. It’s a new experience for him, with an increase in mail-in ballots leading to more of them arriving at the Champaign County Clerk’s office during the two-week window between Election Day and the day that the election is certified. These ballots are still valid, as long as they were postmarked by Election Day. But Carter Niccum says he wishes they would arrive sooner.
“It’s not that far from Savoy to the Brookens Center,” said Carter Niccum, referring to the building housing the county clerk’s office. “You would think that the mail would get there fairly quickly.”
Ruggieri says he will wait and see what the final election results are as well. Ruggieri, who is seeking a second term as a Savoy village trustee, says he observed some of last week’s ballot counting as a poll watcher. He says the operations by the Champaign County Clerk’s office appeared straightforward, with nothing out of the ordinary. But with the vote so close, Ruggieri says he wants to know what will ultimately happen to some ballots that were pulled aside because their signatures didn’t seem to match those on record.
“In this case, there were actually seven ballots that were mailed in from Savoy that were rejected,” said Ruggieri. “So I am kind of interested to see what the process with those would be. Because in a race this close, that could certainly make a difference.”
Ruggieri says he would likely seek a recount only if the final margin was five votes or less.
“It’s been kind of nerve wracking, but like I said, from what I saw, I trust the process,” said Ruggieri.
If he’s re-elected, Ruggieri says he looks forward to completion of a fire safety study for the village, which he hopes will provide direction on future expansion of the Savoy Fire Department. Carter Niccum says if re-elected, he hopes the village board will use its new home rule power, which was approved by voters in a referendum (if the current 48-vote margin holds), to approve a village motor fuel tax to help pay for infrastructure projects. Ruggieri says he also supports a motor fuel tax, but reluctantly, citing a preference for limited government.
Ruggieri and Carter Niccum are not the only candidates on the Champaign County ballot locked in a close contest with fluctuating results. In the Urbana School Board’s contest for the seat representing Sub-District 3, Connie Dillard-Myers led Lara E. Orr by seven votes, 144-137 on election night. But in the updated county last Friday, Orr led Dillard-Myers by two votes, 165-163.