WASHINGTON — The latest and likely final vote totals reported Wednesday show Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., beat GOP challenger Jim Oberweis by 5,377 votes in the 14th Congressional District contest.
Underwood increased her margin from last week, when she was ahead by 4,688 votes, according to unofficial returns, with her lead growing with counts of provisional and mail ballots received by Nov. 17. There are likely no more substantial numbers of votes to be counted.
Oberweis still intends to seek what in Illinois is called a “discovery recount,” his spokesman, Travis Akin, said.
Underwood received 203,195, or 50.7% of the vote, to Oberweis, a state senator, getting 197,818, or 49.3%, according to the Associated Press.
When a vote is that close, Illinois law allows a candidate to file a petition asking for a discovery recount.
That filing has to take place within five days after the state certifies the vote and officially declares a winner, which in Illinois is Dec. 4.
During a discovery recount, the candidate can review the votes in up to 25% of the precincts. The 14th District has 462 precincts in parts of seven counties.
The results of a discovery recount alone do not change an outcome. If problems are discovered, the next step would be for a judge to look at the facts and grant a petition for a more complete recount only if there appears to be, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections, “a reasonable likelihood the recount will change the results of the election.”
Underwood said in a statement, “The votes have been counted and the voters have spoken: I’m proud to have earned reelection. This was a historic election: more than 400,000 members of our community cast votes in this race,” Underwood said, a reference to the high turnout.
Oberweis traveled to Washington last Thursday to attend freshman orientation even though his prospects for claiming the seat are slim. Oberweis remained in Washington until Wednesday, in part trying to raise money for a recount, Akin said.
Akin said, “This is not a situation where (Oberweis) is trying to be difficult…We made a calculated decision we want to see this thing through, want to make sure the vote total is accurate, that there weren’t any illegal votes cast.”
He added that Oberweis “is a gentleman” and is not trying to “undermine the election.” If the numbers after a review confirm he lost, Oberweis “will do the right thing,” Akin said.