No races change as uncounted ballots tabulated from May primary

County seeks legal remedy to add ballots to vote totals Candidates, clerks and County Commission staff stand in the election vault on Wednesday, September 21. Pictured, from left, is a Secretary of State’s investigator, Bill Clark, Darren Thorne, Ken Reed, GW Easton, Commissioner Sean Forney and Prosecuting Attorney Dan James. Clerks from the Morgan County Clerk’s office on Thursday tabulate votes from paper rolls from the county’s voting machines. County Clerk Kim Nickles, Erin Mowery and Commissioner Joel Tuttle on Thursday review digital memory cards holding ballots from the May primary. by Kate Shunney The Morgan County Commissioners and County Clerk’s office, with help from the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office and election vendors, have found, read and counted ballots that were missed in the elections totals during the May 10 primary election. Those votes, added to the existing election totals, didn’t overturn the outcome of any of the county races. Preliminary election results tabulated today, Thursday, September 22, now include a missing 354 ballots cast during the first six days of Early Voting. It took county officials and their election software vendor two days to isolate the issue which had kept those 354 ballots from being counted in the final vote totals on election night, and to read the digital media where those ballots were stored. On Thursday, clerks from the County Clerk’s office also sat in the County Commission room and hand-tabulated votes that are recorded on paper rolls in the county’s voting machines. Through those two methods of ballot-checking, the clerk’s office was able to read all of the ballots cast during the May 10 primary election. On Thursday afternoon, Commissioner Joel Tuttle said the the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office was preparing to file a writ of mandamus in Morgan County Circuit Court, asking a Circuit Judge to de-certify the May primary election.     That would allow the Morgan County Commission to reconvene as the county’s canvassing board, check the updated election results for accuracy once again, and then certify those election results as the final vote count. According to documents printed out by county officials on Thursday afternoon, there were 354 previously uncounted ballots. Of those, 301 ballots were Republican ballots, 52 were Democratic and one was a non-partisan ballot. Those ballots added 158 votes to Republican Bill Clark in the Morgan County Commission race, and 132 votes to Gary “G.W.” Easton. Clark kept his narrow margin of victory over Easton after the additional votes were counted. In another race that had the potential to change with the discovery of the uncounted ballots, Hampshire County Republican Darren Thorne added 13 votes to his narrow lead over longtime incumbent delegate Ruth Rowan, who added 9 votes from Morgan County in the race for the House of Delegates representing the 89th district. Special school levy results were also within a narrow range, but preliminary results still favored renewal of the school tax, adding 202 votes for the levy and 127 votes against it. Commissioner Tuttle and others cautioned that the results of today’s ballot count are still preliminary, but they are confident the numbers match up to figures from the Secretary of State’s office and the County Clerk’s office about how many total ballots were cast in May. State election officials were the ones who uncovered the discrepancy between the number of voters who cast a ballot and the number of votes counted in the primary. The gap was found during a routine review of voter history on September 7. During the two-day investigation into the uncounted ballots, county and state officials determined that a ballot correction made on May 3 by the voting machine vendor at the request of the County Clerk’s office was the reason for the uncounted ballots. When the updated version of the ballot was loaded onto digital memory cards, computers became unable to read and tabulate ballots that were cast before that update was made. County officials and election software employees were able to locate those ballots on memory cards and read them separately, double-checking the paper ballot “receipts” in the machines and voter poll books to verify those ballots had not already been counted. Candidates in the May primary were invited to attend the meetings on Wednesday and Thursday and several did show up to view the process. Results remain preliminary until the Circuit Court and County Commission follow steps to make the new vote totals official. The public meetings held to find and tabulate the missing ballots are able to be viewed on the Morgan County Commission YouTube channel.