Vote recount today

Published 5:00 am Thursday, August 14, 2003

A recount of races in last Tuesday’s Democratic primary wasscheduled for Thursday, but state officials are not expected to getinvolved in Lincoln County’s election confusion, Circuit ClerkTerry Lynn Watkins said Wednesday.

The recount was to begin at 9:30 a.m.

Watkins was in the process of notifying everyone who was presentTuesday for an examination of ballots used in last week’sDemocratic primary. The ballot examination was stopped after lockand protective seal problems were found with several ballot andsupply boxes.

On Thursday, candidates will be allowed to inspect the ballots,poll books and voter sign-in books from precincts, Watkins said.The ballots will then be run through the vote-counting machine.

“It’ll count the whole ballot,” Watkins said.

Watkins said totals from Thursday’s recount should match thosefrom last week. On Tuesday, candidates agreed to a hand count ifthe vote-scanning machine breaks down like it did on electionnight.

If candidates are still not satisfied after Thursday’s recount,Watkins said they would be advised to seek legal assistance.

After box problems were found Tuesday, candidates had sought tohave a representative from the Secretary of State’s office come toLincoln County to mediate and answer questions regarding votinglaws. Watkins said she spoke with state election officialsWednesday, but they would be unable to come to the county due to alimited staff and the nature of the complaints.

“I went through the list of everything we found,” Watkinssaid.

Watkins said the box problems were described as votingirregularities but not voter fraud. The problems — while theyshould not have happened — are not unique to Lincoln County, sheadded.

“As long as you have human beings involved in the electionprocess, those things are going to happen,” Watkins said.

Also Wednesday, sheriff’s candidate Robert Berry and Post OneJustice Court Judge candidate Wanza McGuffie filed papers with thecircuit clerk contesting the primary. Berry placed third in thesheriff’s race while McGuffie finished a distant second in herrace, although she said her concerns were more about election nightconfusion rather than her vote total.

Berry’s petition specifically asks for the results of thesheriff’s race to be set aside “due to the improper functioning ofballot-counting machines and due to the unauthorized tampering withsealed and locked ballot boxes.” He asked for a new primaryelection conducted by neutral observers from the state DemocraticParty.

McGuffie’s petition cites the vote-scanning machine problems,handling of ballots by unauthorized people and unlocked ballotboxes.

Lincoln County Democratic Executive Committee Chairman GeraldWilliams, who oversaw vote-counting activity for his party onelection night, did not return a telephone call seeking comment onthe contest petitions.