Quality assurance of the 2019 elections is on the minds of Washington County Board of Supervisors and the Election Commission, who have contracted for services to review any errors that may be lurking in the system and address specific concerns.
Jackie Thompson, election commissioner, addressed supervisors at the April 1 meeting with several request for approvals.
Thompson said the commission requested hiring a consultant for upcoming elections.
“It was told to me by the past chair person, there was an order to go back and check the lines and make sure everything was correct and that was never done,” Thompson said, noting the commission desires to make sure precinct lines are correct.
Supervisors Lee Gordon asked if reviewing the map and making sure the lines were correct would address issues that were reported by voters in 2018 and Thompson confirmed it would be possible to find errors and address the issues.
Supervisors unanimously agreed to contract for the services.
At the April 15 meeting, supervisors agreed to contract for services, which include reviewing and addressing issues in the voter address library system, map system and ensuring the data among the systems match for $2,400.
Thompson also requested at the April 1 meeting that supervisors consider approving the hiring of an attorney for the election commission.
“Since this is a very large election, we wanted to make sure that we are covered and we have someone we can get advice from,” Thompson said.
Supervisor Jesse Amos asked if the supervisors attorney could represent the election commission.
Thompson said the election commissions budget provided for the expense. However County Administrator Chelesa Carter said she did not see the line item in the budget.
Gordon asked Thompson was the reasoning for the request was.
“What is the benefit of having a separate attorney?” Gordon asked.
“We wanted to get someone more abreast of election laws,” Thompson said noting Frank Powers is the supervisors attorney but questioned his awareness of election laws.
“We want to find someone to focus strictly on the election laws, because this year we have such a large ballot,” Thompson continued. “And we want to make sure we are not doing anything that would be out [of line with those laws].”
Supervisors agreed to table the request and bring the matter under advisement.
Thompson also reminded supervisors that training for poll managers is critical and increasing the number of poll workers would be helpful in a large election.
At the March 4 meeting, supervisors agreed discussing the issue further and finding solutions to ensure a quality election was necessary.
Gordon said several residents brought issues to his attention during the fall election.
“There have been concerns and issues in my district with voting.” he said. “Last election, some voters had to go to Arcola to vote. There were several who are well within the district who had to go outside of the district to vote.
“They said last time they were not allowed to vote in their percent, where they should have voted,” Gordon continued.
Amos said he also has concerns about the validity of absentee ballots cast during the fall election.
“Last election it was 200 or so absentee ballots, and I talked to Secretary of State about the reports and was told it had been turned over to Attorney General’s Office,” he continued, noting while the issue may still be under review, Washington County has a responsibility to ensure a fair election.
Amos suggested to Supervisors cameras be installed to watch offices where ballots are stored and handled. He also suggested absentee ballot request be counted and election results posted as returns come in from ballot counting.
During the fall election, ballot returns were not posted or released as precincts were counted, despite being requested by the DD-T. It was not until after 90 percent of precincts had reported that some data was released.
After the November election, the campaign to elect Shannon Brown representative for District 31 asked for a review of ballots.
A written request by Brown’s campaign committee to review the 234 affidavit and absentee ballots from two of Washington County’s voting precincts for the House District 31 Representative’s seat was not honored.
The Enterprise-Tocsin was present for what Brown had hoped to be a reexamination of the Nov. 6 ballots, which included affidavit and absentee voting.
The two Leland precincts are in District 4, and at least 99 of the ballots in question are affidavit votes.
Brown’s campaign manager, Rev. Adoris Turner, said the campaign filed the proper documentation with Circuit Clerk Barbara Esters-Parker based on information received from the Secretary of State’s office and the state auditor’s office.