Map investigation leads nowhere

Published 7:35 pm Monday, June 14, 2004

By By Arthur McLean
(Correction: In the June 6 edition of the Atmore Advance, it was reported that an incorrect voting map was given to poll workers. The incorrect map was not given to poll workers, but it did affect voter lists that were created from the map and given to poll workers. We apologize for the error.)
After a week's worth of investigation, no one in Escambia County knows how a voting map placed 174 registered voters outside of County Commission District 4 for the June 1 primary race.
"We've reached a point where we don't think we'll be able to determine what happened to the map," said Tony Sanks, county administrator.
Sanks had been looking into the matter since it came to light the morning of the Democratic primary.
A countywide map is supposed to show voting districts and where registered voters live within those voting districts. The map used on June 1 affected a number of residents living in the area of Cinderbrand Road and Rockaway Creek Road.
The map placed residents in this area in County Commission District 5 when they should have been in County Commission District 4. When voter lists were made from this map and those lists given to poll workers, some District 4 voters may not have received a District 4 ballot with the county commission candidates on it.
Sanks said there is no way to accurately determine how many votes were affected by the error.
The county redistricted itself in 2001, but it was not an old map that was used, Sanks said. The rest of the map is accurate with current voting districts, only a portion of District 4 was affected by a change in the map, a change no one can account for.
William Brown and James (Junior) Hall will face each other in a run-off June 29. Brown and Hall are separated by 49 votes. Candidate Joey Kelley, who will not be in the runoff, garnered 284 votes, 83 votes behind Hall.
For Kelley, the sting of the loss is made worse from the problems affecting District 4 and the Rachel Patterson polling place. "I wouldn't mind losing legitimately, but it hurts to lose this way after campaigning so hard," Kelley said. "I'm truly upset over the people who weren't able to vote, because they didn't understand that they could vote in the race, whether or not they would have voted for me."
No one has filed a challenge to the results of the race. Kelley said he would only seriously consider challenging the results from the Rachel Patterson ballot box, but doing so would require a number of voters to attend up to two days of hearings in Brewton. "I'm not going to put working people through that," Kelley said. "I sincerely hope this problem doesn't happen again."
Sanks said the county is moving on, trying to fix the map and voter lists for the runoff election. "It's not a matter of laying blame," Sanks said. "At this point, unless something else becomes apparent, we're focusing on the runoff."
For Kelley, it's the final rubbing of salt in the wound. "We haven't heard anything from the county about this, no even to say they were sorry about the mistake," he said.

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