MOUNDSVILLE - West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said her office will become involved with a Marshall County election error only if criminal wrongdoing is found to have occurred.
County Clerk Jan Pest was preparing for today's official canvass of votes when she discovered 2,912 early and absentee votes had not been added to election night totals. New results now show Republican Bob Miller Jr. defeating incumbent Commissioner Jason "Jake" Padlow, a Democrat, while initial returns showed Miller losing to Padlow.
Padlow has congratulated Miller on his apparent victory, but he also has raised questions about the integrity of the vote total and election workers' actions. He said workers changed the election results Saturday without county commissioners, the prosecutor or ballot commissioners present.
"I'm not going to say much yet about what they did," Tennant said Monday. "We have to let the process go through first. The Secretary of State's Office investigates when there is an irregularity with voting. We are aware, and we will be looking into it. We just need to make sure the process is followed."
She added that the issue, as it currently stands, is a civil matter to be handled at the county level. But a representative of her office will be present when Marshall County officials conduct the official canvass of last week's general election at 9:30 a.m. today.
Election night totals showed Padlow with 4,797 votes, winning over Miller with 4,736 by 61 votes. Updated totals now show 6,173 ballots cast for Miller and 6,093 for Padlow - an 80-vote difference in Miller's favor.
Pest said about 165 additional provisional ballots and 14 absentee ballots remain to be considered during the canvass.
Miller confirmed Monday that he had spoken with Padlow after the error was discovered.
"He was very gracious," Miller said of Padlow. "I was very pleased."
Miller added that he was pleased Pest had discovered the error prior to the canvass and said he hopes the commission's review of the process reveals that everything was done properly.
"I just appreciate all the support of the voters and all of the people I've been lucky enough to come into contact with during campaign," he said.
Tennant said it is not unusual for a representative from her office to attend a county canvass, and they also will be present in some other counties today. She added, though, that it was necessary to send a representative to Marshall County "because of what came to light."
"We're there because the prosecutor may have questions about the election - but we never tell the county commission what they need to do," Tennant said. "We can give assistance."
She said it is "part of the procedure" for Pest and other county clerks to review election results and prepare provisional ballots in the days after an election and before a canvass.
"I can't speak for what they were doing - but I know there is preparation before canvassing. ... " Tennant said. "We take everything seriously. We have to see what took place before I can say what might happen."
If Miller's victory is confirmed today, the three-man Marshall County Commission will consist of three Republicans - Miller, Brian Schambach and Don Mason.