If it's December, it must be time for Transit Workers Union news! Last year, we had a transit strike. This year, it's all about a voting for new union leadership. In the middle of the month, Transit Workers Union members mailed in their ballots to elect a president and other positions. While Roger Toussaint was re-elected to a third term (did the autographs set him over the edge?), the votes were so close in other races that they were recounted five times.

One of the complicated things about TWU elections is that candidates must on a slate, with nominees for president, vice presidents, etc. The NY Times reports that Toussaint's slate won four vice-president positions, while an opposing slate won two. But the final vice-president slot was very close - and the two candidates happen to have the same last name!

In an initial count of the paper ballots with a scanning machine, Nelson Rivera emerged as the winner, leading Richard Rivera by just one vote, 965 to 964, according to a written decision by [neutral monitor Barbara C.] Deinhardt on Thursday. The decision was issued in response to a protest filed last week by lawyers for Richard Rivera.

The other two candidates in the race garnered about 560 votes between them, according to vote totals provided by the lawyers. Because the vote was so close, a second count was conducted using the scanning machine. Nelson Rivera continued to lead by one vote. But somehow, the two leading candidates had each picked up one more vote, for a tally of 966 to 965.

At that point, lawyers for Richard Rivera asked for a hand count. Two were conducted, but there is disagreement about the results.

Ivan D. Smith, one of Richard Rivera’s lawyers, said the first hand count put his client ahead by two votes, 967 to 965. In the second hand count, Mr. Smith said, Ms. Deinhardt disqualified two ballots that had previously been counted for Richard Rivera, and as a result the count ended in a tie between the two candidates, with 965 votes apiece.

In the end, Toussaint ally Nelson Rivera won over Richard Rivera but just two votes. No one should ever think their votes don't count.

And the image above shows the hourly wages for different transit employees taking account the transit contract the MTA offered, then the TWU rejected (then accepted), last year to end the strike. [Via Jarid, thanks!]