Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

Local News

June 6, 2014

Recount of absentee ballots set to begin Tuesday

GLASGOW — Only mail-in absentee ballots that were already counted in the Barren County primary election May 20 will be included in a recount scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Chris Steward, one of five Democratic candidates for judge-executive, requested the recount after a recanvass of the totals produced the same numbers as on election day – and he still had 16 votes less than Micheal Hale, who had 1,643. Bud Tarry received 1,640 and requested the recanvass, but chose not to pursue a recount.

The Complaint and Petition for Recount filed by Bowling Green attorney Matt Baker on behalf of Steward, says Steward, “believes that the final count of the votes for the candidates … to be erroneous and/or incorrect” and “that certain absentee ballots submitted have either not been counted, improperly counted and/or improperly disqualified during the original count and/or the recanvass.”

The Barren County Board of Elections, the county clerk and each of the other four candidates were named as defendants in the document.

In a hearing at 1 p.m. Friday, Barren Circuit Judge Phillip Patton set a bond for $2,000 that Steward had to post with his signature and a surety, which was signed by Larry Eaton. The judge also announced the time and date for the recount to begin.

Baker said that because a recanvass had already been conducted and yielded the same results as on election night, in order to streamline the recount process, he and Steward would not challenge the accuracy of those numbers.

“But we are interested in some additional particularities,” he said, “with regard to the number of absentee ballots requested from the clerk's office, the number of absentee ballots sent out, the number of absentee ballots returned to the clerk's office and the number of absentee ballots, of the ones that were returned, that were actually counted.”

Baker said the focus of the lawsuit is the absentee ballots, particularly those mailed in that were disqualified.

Patton said, though, that a recount is literally just a counting of what has already been counted, so any ballots that were disqualified and not counted should not be included in the recount. He said it would be more appropriate for an election contest. County Attorney Jeff Sharp, representing the elections board and county clerk, agreed with Patton.

Baker reiterated that the concern about the disqualified ballots was noted in his complaint, and as far as he was concerned, his filing included a request for a “contest,” although it didn't use that precise word.

The judge also said if a contest was what was desired, a trial date and not necessarily a recount date was what needed to be set, and Baker said he was fine with setting a date for trial. Patton questioned whether it even necessary to recount the others, if the disqualified mail-in absentee ballots were the only real issue in the case, and Baker said he thought the judge may need to the recount happen to have it as part of his eventual findings. After further discussion, Patton said a recount would address whether any of those particular ballots were “improperly counted,” addressing another element in the lawsuit.

Also during the proceeding, the last name of Rusty Anderson, Sheriff Kent Keen's designee for the board of elections in his stead, as he is a candidate, was corrected by agreement from Rusty “Henderson,” which is how it had been originally listed in the complaint.

Patton said he would review the law and case precedents and issue a written order later in the afternoon. In the order, he says the issue of whether ballots were improperly disqualified “is not appropriate for consideration in a recount. This allegation however may state issues sufficient for an election contest and is therefore subject to further orders [under state law].”

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