MOUNDSVILLE - Marshall County Commissioner Jason "Jake" Padlow agreed not to contest the results of the Nov. 6 election - as long as some procedural changes are implemented for future elections.
Robert Miller Jr. will become the county's next commissioner after Padlow signed a memorandum of understanding Friday that outlines an agreement he made with Commissioners Don Mason and Brian Schambach, as well as county Clerk Jan Pest. In that MOU, the county officials agreed to adopt nine proposals or procedures for all elections beginning in 2013.
"The county commission and county clerk have worked with Jake and his legal counsel to come to a memorandum of understanding that is mutually acceptable to both parties," said county Administrator Betsy Frohnapfel, who confirmed Prosecutor Jeff Cramer negotiated on behalf of the county.
"I would like to thank the citizens of Marshall County for giving me the opportunity to serve them for the past 12 years," Padlow said Friday. "I will always be grateful to those persons who supported me through this election process and my time as commissioner.
"Since Election Day, my family and I have gone through many emotions. On election night I celebrated a 61-vote victory," he continued. "Four days later, I was unexpectedly informed that there was a problem with the vote count and I had lost by 80 votes. After reviewing this matter with my counsel and giving it a lot of thought, I have decided to put an end to any further challenges to the results of the county commission race.
"However, it is abundantly clear that there were many flaws that occurred after all the votes were cast and the tabulation began. As a result, the Marshall County Commission and clerk's office have agreed that changes will be instituted for all future elections beginning in 2013, which have been set forth in an agreement," he added.
In the memorandum, the commission agreed to purchase iVotronic voting machines so that it will be unnecessary for the clerk's office to use the same machine for two different purposes during a single election. This provision resulted after officials discovered 114 votes were overlooked on election night and in the official vote canvass because a machine had been "requalified."
Pest said an early voting machine was also used to count absentee ballots on election night. When personal electronic ballots and flash card memory are inserted in an IVOtronic voting machine, the devices record a serial number from the machine. That happened when the machine in question was used for early voting. But it happened again after that machine was "zeroed-out" and "requalified" to count absentee ballots.
As a result, when the PEBs and flash cards were read while votes were tabulated on election night, the system software encountered the same machine serial number twice.
Early votes were counted first, and the software accepted the machine's serial number. But when the absentee votes were added to the same category, Pest said, the software recognized the serial number for a second time and rejected the 114 absentee ballots that had been run through that machine.
Another provision of the agreement is a response to the same concern. It states the county clerk's office will separate early and absentee votes into two columns on all election reports.
The agreement further requires the clerk to designate a person to tally "ballots cast" from the first five precincts returned to the courthouse on election night. Those results are to be compared with the "total ballots cast" on the first report issued to the public. Employees will be assigned to ensure the cumulative reports generated on election night are "Election Totals," including early and absentee ballots, and not merely "Election Day Totals."
This stems from erroneous totals being reported on election night, showing the Democrat Padlow as the winner over Republican Miller by 61 votes. By the end of that week, though, Pest found that 2,912 early and absentee ballots had been overlooked. When they were added to the ballots cast on Election Day, the results of the race were reversed. Following a canvass and a recount, Miller was declared the winner with 6,277 votes to Padlow's 6,192. Just 0.68 percent of the vote separated the candidates.
Schambach said he learned a lot from the election.
"We were following a lot of the standard operating procedures and realized ... more best practices to eliminate any mishaps in the future," Schambach said. "Anyone who thinks the election process is an exact science is naive. We do have a conscientious and professional staff in place, and we have learned from these few mishaps and will focus on the future and the current school board levy election.
"I would also like to thank Jake Padlow for actually helping me so much the last couple of years, for doing a great job as a county commissioner and for always being professional."
Padlow added that he will continue to be active in the community even after he leaves office.
"Now, it is time for me to move forward," he said. "This is obviously not the hardest incident I have been through in my life, but as a single father it pains me to see the confusion and sadness this situation has caused my three young children.
"I can proudly say that during my time as commissioner I have done everything in my power to move Marshall County forward and we have succeeded," he continued. "I intend to remain very active in the community and will use my experience and friendships with local, state and federal officials for the betterment of Marshall County and the state of West Virginia."