Marshall County Election Results Flawed

MOUNDSVILLE – A faulty vote count Tuesday may have shown the wrong candidate winning the race for a Marshall County Commission seat.

Incumbent Democrat Commissioner Jason “Jake” Padlow appears to have been unseated by Republican Robert Miller Jr. due to additional votes being added to the tally.

Tuesday’s unofficial count – which did not include early voting and absentee ballots – indicated Padlow had bested Miller by 61 votes. With the addition of early and absentee votes, Miller is leading Padlow by 80 votes.

But Marshall County Clerk Pest said about 165 additional provisional ballots and 14 absentee ballots remain to be considered during the vote canvass this week.

On Election Day, Pest reported a 45 percent voter turnout in the county. With the addition of the absentee and early votes, turnout amounted to 58.83 percent with 6,173 ballots cast for Miller and 6,093 for Padlow.

Tuesday night totals had Padlow with 4,797 votes and Miller with 4,736. But 2,912 early and absentee votes had been overlooked.

When the error was corrected, Pest said, the commission race was the only question on the ballot to see its results change.

All election results remain unofficial until the county commission meets at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday to canvass the votes.

“All of the votes were tallied in the system on election night, and the precinct by precinct reports reflect that,” Pest said Sunday, noting those reports are withheld from the public until the canvass in order to protect the ballots of provisional and absentee by mail voters.

“The error was not in the programming or any technical problem,” she said, adding that when the final report was run on Tuesday, workers calculated the “Election Day group” of results rather than the “election totals.”

“We regret that this happened and, unfortunately, it did affect one race,” Pest said. “It was human error, and I take full responsibility.”

Pest said she discovered the problem Saturday while preparing for the canvass.

She said she immediately called Commissioners Padlow, Don Mason and Brian Schambach, who in turn contacted Miller to inform him.

Miller could not be reached Sunday for comment.

Padlow, however, said he already had congratulated Miller on his apparent victory.

But Padlow questioned whether proper procedures had been followed in determining the new result.

“I think that the integrity of the system has been violated by two people thinking they can go into the system and start running and retabulating ballots without any ballot commissioners there, without any county commissioners there and without anybody from the prosecutor’s office there,” Padlow said. “The system has been compromised by somebody going into that office and breaking a seal on a bag without any presence of any election official there. The whole election probably should be thrown out.”

Padlow stressed that nine tests of the voting machines had been conducted prior to the election and that all three county commissioners, the prosecutor and two ballot commissioners had been present for those tests. On Saturday when the tally changed, however, Padlow said only Pest and Deputy Clerk Winnie Reilly were present.

“They changed the vote without anybody’s supervision,” Padlow said. “Policy and procedure has been busted open in this. I know there’s a seal that has been broken under no supervision whatsoever. Why are two people in that clerk’s office on a Saturday afternoon counting votes and changing the results of an election?”

Padlow said he believes Pest had determined the new result on Friday and notified Mason but did not notify Padlow, Schambach or Prosecutor Jeff Cramer until Saturday.

“This is not sour grapes. I’m a man, I can take it if I lost,” Padlow continued. “I’m just disappointed in the way it happened. The system was breached. I still don’t know what happened when they went in there, and nobody does,” he added.

Padlow did not know whether Pest or her office would face any consequences for the error but said, “We’ve got some good people looking into this.”

Schambach on Sunday confirmed that an error had occurred during the count Tuesday.

“At this juncture, we are reviewing the process and we will make forthcoming decisions this Tuesday,” Schambach said.

He also took the opportunity to commend Padlow for the job he has done as a commissioner, pointing to Padlow’s involvement with organizations ranging from volunteer fire departments to the Family Resource Network.

“What people don’t see is the job Jake has done for the county and the job that he does for the county,” Schambach said.

Schambach said he did not know if the clerk’s office would face any consequences for the error.