Two candidates request recounts

Published 5:00 am Friday, August 8, 2003

Two candidates have asked for recounts following confusionduring vote tabulation in Tuesday’s Democratic party primary.

Robert Berry, who finished third in the sheriff’s race, and Post2 Constable candidate Charles B. Welch, who finished second but didnot qualify for a runoff, filed papers Thursday requesting recountsin their races.

“They’re entitled to recounts,” said Lincoln County CircuitClerk Terry Lynn Watkins, adding that the ballot inspection andrecount would likely be done next week.

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“I am disputing the totals that were announced after the votingmachine was supposedly fixed,” Berry said.

Berry confronted election officials after the primaries Tuesdaybecause of a disagreement related to vote totals announced beforethe vote-scanning machine broke down and those announced at the endof the night. Berry claimed he “lost votes” when the machinebroke.

“Before the machine supposedly broke down I had well over 2,100votes,” he said. “When the machine was ‘fixed,’ I not only lost 300votes, but I received no more votes, not even from my ownarea.”

After 11 of 32 precincts had been counted, overall vote totalswere announced.

Later, several individual precinct totals were announced.Election officials speculated that some candidates may have”double-counted” votes by adding those to overall totals announcedearlier.

“They claim that my votes were doubled incorrectly,” Berry said,”but if that is the case, then all the other candidates votes weredoubled incorrectly also.”

He also claims some ballot boxes were broken open and ballotswere brought into the voting room by hand.

“These are the facts that I am disputing and investigating,” hesaid. “I ran my campaign on honesty. If I lose, I don’t mindlosing, but I would like to lose honest.”

With 1,829 votes, Berry finished third behind incumbent SheriffLynn Boyte, who had 4,389 votes, and Post 1 Constable WileyCalcote, who had 3,129 votes. Boyte and Calcote are scheduled tomeet in the Aug. 26 runoff.

Welch also cited machine difficulties in his recountrequest.

“The machine broke down, and there was some confusion withcounting the vote,” Welch said.

With 861 votes, Welch was second to incumbent Post 2 ConstableW. Lavon Boyd, who got 2,191 votes, enough for him to get the partynomination outright and avoid a runoff. When contacted, Welch saidhe expected results to be the same, but that a few votes couldforce a runoff.

In his recount request, Welch asked that the ballots be runthrough the machine again and that the operator be “an unbiasedperson that has no ties to any candidate or Democratic committeemember.”

Welch later clarified that statement to mean no DemocraticExecutive Committee or anyone with influence over the votecounting. The statement was not directed at the actual machineoperators.

“All they were doing was running the machine,” Welch said.

Under state law regarding primaries, the Democratic ExecutiveCommittee was responsible for conducting and running Tuesday’sparty primary. Attempts to contact Gerald Williams, committeechairman, were unsuccessful Thursday.

For the recounts, Watkins said other candidates in the affectedraces must be notified by certified mail, and they have the rightto be present for the recount. She expected letters to be sent outFriday and the recounts held sometime next week.

Watkins said ballots may be inspected, counted by hand orcounted by the machine again. She was hopeful the recounts could behandled quickly so the county could prepare for the Aug. 26runoffs.

“We’ve got to get our ballots printed and get set up for therunoff,” Watkins said.

Results from Tuesday’s primary have not been certified.

“We’re working on that,” Watkins said Thursday afternoon. “Itshould be sent out tomorrow.”

Watkins said a precinct by precinct vote recap form must becompleted and results sent to the Secretary of State’s Office.