At 7:05 a.m. Aug. 2, Republican Executive Committee Chairman Pete Perry received an urgent call from a poll worker at the Wynndale Precinct in Terry. The poll worker told him that candidates’ names for certain races were not appearing on some of the electronic voting machines, and he needed more paper ballots quickly.
This was the first sign that something was awry in the Hinds County election process. Gay Polk, candidate for Democratic state representative of District 73, also received phone calls from supporters saying they could not find her name on the paper ballots or on voting machines.
Perry says that a technician must determine the cause of the computer glitches. But handing voters the wrong ballots isn’t uncommon at split precincts like Wynndale. A split precinct is where two different legislators represent its residents. Poll workers must verify the voter’s precinct, and make sure the machine displays the correct ballot or give the voter a correct paper ballot.
Polk narrowly lost the race with 1,754 votes, or 49 percent. Her opponent, Brad Oberhousen, won with 1,867 votes, or 51 percent. “Any precinct that is a split is confusing,” Perry said. “That’s what happens in redistricting.” Polk said she plans to challenge the election results.
… At press time, the Democratic Executive Committee planned to certify the votes Tuesday night.
On Saturday, Perry said that last week’s election process isn’t uncommon. He searched for any misplaced Republican absentee ballots and ensured that the number of voters signed up at the polls matched the number of votes cast. “We have to do everything they have to do, but because what we do isn’t going to change the outcome of any election, I don’t have to answer to 50 people every time I do something,” Perry said. “If it’s a close election, you are going to have this. ”
Perry, who works challenging campaigns for candidates throughout the state, said that while counting ballots is an open process, party officials don’t have to permit candidates or supporters to insert themselves in the process. The Republican committee chairman says those who are losing campaigns can sometimes create confusion to cast doubt on an election’s validity. Perry, however, didn’t defend the Democrat’s handling of the election.
“I don’t know if it’s intentional or crooked or fraud, but I will say that it’s sloppy,” he said. “But it’s going on in 81 other counties, too.”