The Tri-State Racetrack and Gaming Center in Nitro, West Virginia, USA is still awaiting the results of a vote from last week. The county of Kanawha is in a fervor of frustration over vote counts and handling regarding a referendum on gambling. Three other counties have had successful votes on the measure, and have resulted in two of the counties approving poker and other casino style table games.
The Kanawha County referendum brought in more than 45,000 votes last Saturday. This number is representative of more than ten percent increase over the anticipated vote turnout of 25 percent.Ã‚Â After the narrow 33-vote triumph was reported, the saga began.
Abnormality in the management of the vote began the day of the referendum. Further vote irregularities have followed every day since.
To start off with, there are roughly 513 challenged ballots, a reasonable percentage for most elections. Add to this, 155 early votes were counted at the Voters Registration office instead of the precincts to which they are assigned, as is required by state law.
After the first vote conflicts were identified, 67 votes from Precinct 310 in St. Albans were counted twice, said David Dodd, chief deputy county clerk. Those votes were more or less equal, 32 for; 35 against. Then County Clerk Vera McCormick discovered 64 uncounted absentee ballots from the Sissonville area, which voted against table games, on Monday.
On Tuesday, another 374 uncounted ballots from seven precincts were discovered, predominantly from the South Hills area, which voted heavily in favor of table games. “These ballots, they were protected, they were under lock and key,” County Clerk Vera McCormick said about the 374 new ballots. The ballots found Tuesday were early votes and absentee ballots, she said. “We want to make sure that every ballot counts.”
Secretary of State Betty Ireland said released to the press that she and her office are aware of the discrepancies, and intend to participate in the canvass at the end of the week. “Although this is a large amount of uncounted votes, the checks and balances of the voting process is working in that all votes will be reviewed during canvass,” Ireland said in the release. “Our office will be present Friday to assist with the canvass. As Secretary of State, protecting the people’s right to vote is my primary focus.”
County Commission President Kent Carper, released the following statement in an interview to the West Virginia Gazette”[Voters] deserve to have confidence in the system,” Carper said. “This isn’t cutting it.” He went on to say he wanted an opportunity to review precedent, the law and legislative intent prior to Friday’s canvass, where county commissioners will discuss if challenged ballots should be included. “I see no reason to deviate from the sensible way we’ve handled canvasses in the past,” he said. Although some votes are routinely discarded during every canvass, the newfound ballots will probably be included in the final tally.
Commissioner Dave Hardy said he wanted more information about the circumstances surrounding the uncounted ballots. “What I will be looking for Friday at our canvass is a strong explanation as to how they were discovered,” Hardy said. “I’m always inclined to count a vote if I have a confidence that the ballot was secured. That’s what I need to find out.”
The canvass details will be announced once all decisions are made, and numbers are adjusted.
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