Voting map in error
Published 7:25 pm Wednesday, June 9, 2004
By By Arthur McLean
No one is quite sure how a voting district map placed 174 voters outside the County Commission District 4 voting area on Tuesday.
During Tuesday's primary, a voting district map was given to poll worker by the Escambia County Board of Registrars.
That map, detailing the voting precincts within the districts, incorrectly placed 174 voters in County Commission District 5 rather than District 4, the district involved in the county commission primary.
County officials said they had the problem corrected by that afternoon, after they received the first call about it Tuesday morning about 8:30 a.m.
"I don't know how it happened. The County Commission and Board of Registrars are responsible for producing the correct precinct information," said Probate Judge Rachel Agerton.
Officials at the Escambia County Board of Registrars office said they receive the district and precinct maps from the County Commission, a map that they assumed to be correct.
County Commission chairman Larry White said county clerk Tony Sanks was investigating the problem and how it occurred. Sanks was unavailable for comment.
Because there is no governmental department dedicated to elections in Alabama, election duties are usually shared among local office holders including local probate and circuit judges, board of registrars, county commission and sheriff.
The precinct affected by the map error appeared to be the Rachel Patterson Elementary polling location and voters living east of Cinderbrand Road. Agerton said no voters would have been turned away from Rachel Patterson.
However, an undetermined number of voters may have received District 5 ballots when they arrived at Rachel Patterson to vote. Those ballots did not have the District 4 County Commission candidates on them.
A law allowing provisional ballots to be cast if there is a question would have allowed voters to file a district 4 ballot, but no provisional ballots were cast at Rachel Patterson on Tuesday, according to voting officials.
None of the candidates involved in the county commission race have filed an official challenge to Tuesday's results by press time.
DeeDra Kelley, candidate Joey Kelley's wife, said Joey Kelley considered filing a challenge, not to the primary, but on the results of balloting at Rachel Patterson. However, Kelley would be forced to pay a bond securing the entire cost of challenging the results, a costly step to take, Kelley said.
A runoff is scheduled for Tuesday, June 29 between William Brown and James "Junior" Hall. Voting ended Tuesday with Brown holding a 49 vote lead over Hall, the incumbent, who claimed 367 votes.
But Brown did not claim enough votes to avoid a runoff in the three-way Democratic Primary. With no Republican candidates on the ballot, the run-off will decide the District 4 seat.
Hall did not return calls by the Atmore Advance seeking comment. Brown could not be reached by press time.
Voting officials said it appeared that the county commission race would be the only runoff to be held in Escambia County.
In all, 24.6 percent of the voters in Escambia turned out to cast a ballot. There were 5,212 voters who cast ballots out of 21,146 registered voters in the county.
(Correction: Since this report was published, it was learned that we incorrectly reported that a map was given to poll workers. The map in question was not given to poll workers but it did affect voter lists given to poll workers. We apologize for the error.)