No major changes in vote recount

Published 5:00 am Friday, August 15, 2003

A Thursday recount of the Aug. 5 Democratic primary votesyielded no changes in race outcomes. Candidates were satisfied withthe slightly-different totals, although some expressed desires forbetter organization on election night.

“It’s just what I expected,” said sheriff candidate RobertBerry, who was one of three candidates to ask for a recount. “Itdidn’t change too much.”

In Thursday’s recount, Berry placed third with 1,870 votes,which was 41 more than he got on Aug. 5. Incumbent Lynn Boyte andPost 1 Constable Wiley Calcote, who also captured more votes in therecount than they had last week, will face each other in the Aug.26 runoff.

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Post 2 Constable candidate Charles Welch, who also requested arecount, said he was satisfied with the totals. Coming in a distantsecond behind incumbent W. Lavon Boyd, Welch was not expecting adifferent race outcome.

“I’m glad we did a recount to clarify everything,” Welchsaid.

Post 1 Justice Court Judge candidate Wanza McGuffie, a thirdcandidate to seek a recount, was unable to attend Thursday’sactivity due to a family illness.

McGuffie had no comment on the race results, but mentionedelection night concerns. Those included a vote-scanning machinebreakdown, the number of people participating in ballot handing andsupply and ballot box irregularities.

“Things need to run better on election night,” McGuffiesaid.

Berry expressed similar comments.

“I just hope the next election will be better than this one was,and I hope it will be better organized than what happened thistime,” Berry said.

Berry, who on Wednesday asked that the sheriff’s race results beset aside, did not say he was totally dropping his contest of theelection. However, he did not request that any ballot or supplyboxes be held for possible use in any criminal prosecution.

“I’ll talk to my attorney and tell him about what happened,”Berry said.

From his observations, District Attorney Danny Smith indicatedit will difficult to prove any voter fraud.

“I’ve seen nothing to indicate any criminal activity,” Smithsaid.

Smith said he was asked to attend the recount as a neutral partyobserver. He commended the recount process.

“I think this is the best thing to do under the circumstances toensure this was a fair election and the votes were properlycounted,” said Smith, adding that it is important for the communityto have confidence in the election process.

Lincoln County Democratic Executive Committee Chairman GeraldWilliams, who was responsible for obtaining and training pollworkers and overseeing his party’s vote-counting on election night,and several committee members were present for Thursday’srecount.

“I wanted to make sure this was done right today,” Williamssaid.

Williams attributed vote total differences between Thursday andelection night to scanning machine sensitivity. He said he wouldnot tolerate any voter fraud.

“If I catch any voter fraud in Lincoln County, I’m going toDanny Smith to have them prosecuted,” Williams said.

Williams commended election workers on their efforts lastTuesday.

“The turnout today proved they were properly trained and theydid an excellent job,” Williams said.

It took about four hours to run the ballots through thevote-scanning machine Thursday, said Lincoln County Circuit ClerkTerry Lynn Watkins. That included time for Berry, Welch andcandidates from several other races to periodically inspect ballotsfrom some precincts.

Earlier Thursday, Berry denied any racial motivations incontesting the election. Berry was the only black candidate in thefour-candidate Democratic field.

“If I thought it was, I would say it,” Berry said.

Fellow sheriff’s candidate Don Evans, who placed fourth in theprimary, was present for the recount along with Berry, Calcote andBoyte. Evans described the election as a humbling and educationalexperience.

“I was proud to be a part of the election process,” Evanssaid.

Incumbent Tax Assessor-Collector Nancy Jordan and challengerRita Goss monitored Thursday’s recount activity.

Goss, who got about 42 percent of the vote, said she hadreceived a number of calls from voters about election nightconfusion and the scanning machine breakdown.

Following the recount, Goss said she wanted to reassure votersthat everything checked out. She congratulated the winners andencouraged voters to return to the polls on Aug. 26 to supportcandidates in the runoff.

“It’s so important that voters not be discouraged,” Gosssaid.

With the recount done, Democratic party officials can nowprepare for the Aug. 26 runoff. Preparations include cleaning outballot boxes from Aug. 5 and putting in runoff ballots and othersupplies for Aug. 26.

“We’ve got to stuff the boxes to get ready for the nextelection,” Williams said. “We will continue on and the electionwill be held as scheduled.”

Watkins said she expected runoff ballots to arrive in her officeFriday. She said absentee voting for the runoff could begin as soonas ballots are ready.