Keep Elections Above Reproach

Thank heaven there are safeguards built into West Virginia law regarding electronic voting machines. Otherwise, the already unpleasant fiasco in Marshall County might be a major scandal.

As we have reported, nearly 3,000 ballots cast in the Nov. 6 general election were not counted initially. When they were tallied last weekend, the result of one county-level race had changed.

During the evening of Nov. 6, it appeared incumbent county Commissioner Jason “Jake” Padlow had been re-elected by a slight margin over challenger Robert Miller Jr. But when the missing ballots were counted, Miller came out ahead. That result was confirmed by a canvass of ballots this week.

Saying Padlow was upset is putting it mildly. He was exceedingly perturbed about how the problem was handled by county Clerk Jan Pest.

Padlow is upset that seals on bags containing computer memory cards on which votes were recorded Nov. 6 were broken by Pest without having ballot commissioners, the prosecuting attorney or county commissioners present. Pest’s response has been that the bags were opened last Friday, with several members of her staff and the public present.

The following day, Pest and a deputy clerk went to the courthouse to add the 2,912 votes that had not been included in the count on Nov. 6 to the total.

Fortunately, bags containing paper records from voting machines remained sealed. A representative of the secretary of state’s office said those documents are considered to be the official record of the election – so there is an ironclad safeguard.

Again, thank heaven for that, or there would be more questions raised about the error.

Clearly, Pest and her deputy should have had other officials, preferably including representatives of both the Democrat and Republican parties, present when they opened sealed bags containing the memory cards, then the next day when votes on the cards were totalled.

Failure to dot every “i” and cross every “t” in this day and age detracts from public confidence in the election process – and that can jeopardize the process itself.