Investigate Election Error

How is it possible to overlook nearly 3,000 ballots cast in a county election? Ask Marshall County Clerk Jan Pest. It happened in her office.

As we reported Monday, Pest discovered the error Saturday, while preparing for the canvass of ballots to be held today by county commissioners.

It seems that on Election Day last Tuesday, only the ballots cast that day were counted by her office. Early voting and absentee ballots – 2,912 of them – somehow were overlooked.

Pest and a deputy counted most of them on Saturday and learned their inclusion in vote totals affected just one race that had been on the ballot. But it was a big one: county commissioner.

Last Tuesday night, Pest’s office released vote totals indicating incumbent county Commissioner Jason “Jake” Padlow had won re-election, defeating challenger Robert Miller Jr. by a tally of 4,797-4,736 votes. That was a margin of just 61 votes.

But when most of the early voting and absentee ballots were counted Saturday, the result was reversed. That count had Miller winning with 6,173 votes to Padlow’s 6,093.

But wait: According to Pest, 165 provisional ballots and 14 absentee ballots have not yet been tallied. That will happen today, when commissioners conduct their canvass. For Miller to retain his newfound victory, he will need to maintain his lead through the canvass.

Needless to say, Padlow was not happy about the fiasco, for which Pest said she took full responsibility. It was a simple human error, she added.

That’s some mistake. Again, nearly 3,000 ballots apparently were overlooked on Election Day.

Combine that with Padlow’s complaint – that on Saturday, only Pest and her deputy were present to tally most of the missing ballots – and it is clear the matter needs to be looked into by West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant’s office. An investigation of how such an egregious error could be made, and of how it was handled once discovered, should be launched.