Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Judge dismisses recount

Security of ballot box called into question

J-E News Editor
Fourteen precincts into the recount for the 5th Judicial Circuit 2nd Division Family Court Judge’s position, the proceedings came to a sudden and unexpected halt when the security of one of the ballot boxes was called into question.
“There was a ballot box out of the south Clay precincts that was not locked and the seal was not tight,” said Bart Frazer, attorney for candidate Brandi Frazer. “It was not tight to the point where you could easily have opened the box and have room to put ballots in or take them out.”

When the condition of the ballot box was noticed, Frazer immediately called the security of the boxes into question and asked for a dismissal.
According to a press release from Ben Leonard’s legal team, “Counsel for Ben Leonard emphasized to the court that he had complete faith and trust in the Court Clerks and the election workers. However, counsel for Mrs. Rogers asked for a dismissal based upon these technicalities. Ben Leonard wanted the recount completed so that the validity of the election could be confirmed.”
Judge Williams written decision was not available at press time, and there was no word on how or if Leonard’s attorneys would proceed from this point.
The Recount
On Monday, the Crittenden County Circuit Court began the process of recounting all votes cast for Family Court Judge in the November 4, 2014 general election.
Leonard, who lost the election by a narrow fifty point margin, filed for the recount on Friday, November 14 at the circuit court in Crittenden County, winning candidate Brandi Hagen Roger’s home county. On Wednesday, November 19, 2014, both sides appeared in court before Circuit Court Judge Rene Williams.
Roger Baird, the CEO of Harp Enterprise, the company that distributes the voting machines used in all three counties, testified before the court that a recount of the same ballots using a different e-scanner would be just as effective as a hand recount. He also told the court that it would only take one day per county to finish the entire process. The cost of the electronic recount would be $1,200 per day.
“A hand count, if there are not any variables, is a good way to do it,” Baird said on Friday during a phone interview. “But it takes a long time. A machine recount is quicker and more reliable.”
Webster County Clerk Valerie Newell testified that there would be no added cost if she used her office staff to handle the recount, but could not tell the court how long that process would take.
Once testimonies were complete, the court adjourned while Williams made her decision. Upon returning, she issued a bond order of $5,000 to cover the cost of the recount, and told the court that this would be a mechanical recount.
In her written decision, Judge Williams said that she believed the electronic recount would be the most accurate, reliable and efficient manner for the court to recount the ballots.
“The machines have no vested interest in this matter and are not subject to human error,” wrote Williams. “Even though it is a more costly procedure, the court finds the integrity of the election is at stake and should be preserved even at a higher cost.”
Baird said that he does not expect the outcome of the election to change.
“You can have a very small variance,” he said. “Does it overturn the election? I’ve never seen it happen. If there was only a one or two vote difference, maybe, but I don’t expect this big of a difference.”
On Monday, Judge Williams overruled a motion from Amy Zachary, co-counsel for Leonard, to reconsider having a hand count. In question was the accuracy of the voting machines themselves.
Zachary cited a 2008 article from ‘The Kentucky Enquirer’ outlining errors in a Kenton County Election. According to the article, a programing error resulted in 84 machines in the county not scoring straight party ticket votes for 23rd District State Senate race between Democrat Kathy Groob and Republican Jack Westwood.
The article goes on to say that Baird admitted that the error was with his company and said, “There’s no way they could have caught this error.”
During the bond hearing, according to the motion filed by Zachary, Baird told the court that he had no knowledge of the events in Kenton County and any reports of machines being shut down due to errors was a lie.
“The errors would not have been caught by any recount by the machines but were only caught by the eye of a voter,” Zachary wrote in her motion. “Certainly, it would never be in the financial or business interest of the Harp Machines’ owners to point out such as mistake.”
Williams overruled the motion and ordered the recount to continue with the machine recount.
Zachary renewed her motion on Tuesday in Webster County but was once again turned down.
When the proceedings were dismissed on Tuesday, the recount had been completed in twelve precincts in Crittenden County and two in Webster County. At that time there was no change in the vote totals in any of the precincts that had been recounted.
“The judge ran a very fair recount,” said Frazer. “There was not one change in any vote that was counted. If it had continued, I’m sure the vote would have been the same.”

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