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Provisionals could change election outcome
Nov 10, 2012 5:00 pm
While the general public may consider Tuesday's general election in the books, Wilson County Adminsatrator of Elections Phillip Warren said there are a few more steps before those results are official, and those steps could result in a new outcome.
"There were about 168 provisional ballots that have to be counted by Friday by state law, unless the state extends the deadline," Warren said. "If you vote provisionally, that means you're not on our roles. There are a lot of reasons for that."
He explained there are dozens of reasons a voter may use a provisional ballot.
"If you lived in Davidson County and moved to Wilson County, then you changed your driver's license in Nashville and said you wanted to register to vote, and they never mail it to us, you're not on our roles," he said. "We have access to their database, and we can see the forms you filled out. If you did it in time, then your vote would count, because it's not your fault they didn't send it to us."
Regardless of why a voter was given a provisional ballot, the Election Commission must investigate each one.
"You can't imagine all the circumstances, but they all have to be checked out individually, because everybody's circumstance is different," Warren said. "A lot of these provisional ballots will not count because they weren't registered."
He said the beauty of the provisional ballot is that if a person is a legitimate voter but is caught up in a paperwork snafu they can still make their voice heard.
"The great thing about a provisional is it gives a person an opportunity to vote, and gives us time to figure it out later," he said. "If it wasn't their fault; their vote counts."
Once all the question marks have been eliminated, the state will certify the results.
"By statute, the election must be certified by the third Monday after the election. The state can extend that and, in an election as big as this, there's a good chance it will be extended," Warren said. "The same for provisionals, by statute they have to be counted by the fourth day after the election and the state has already extended that deadline."
The contest between incumbent Steve Jones and Johnie Payton for the Lebanon Special School District Board of Education was won by Jones, but only by nine votes. Warren said it is well within the realm of possibility that the provisional ballot count could change that outcome.
"Let's cross that bridge when we come to it," Warren said. "I have no idea how many provisional ballots will count, or how many of the ones that count are in even in the LSSD district. It just shows we had two really good candidates. To have it be that close two times - that's elections. Most of the races had enough margin it wouldn't matter."
The first contest between the pair was overturned, leading to the second face off on Tuesday. If Payton is inclined to follow Jones' example and challenge the results of the rematch, she will have to wait until the commission has a final result.
"They can't contest an election until after it's certified," he said, adding he and his team are busy double checking all the votes.
"Right now the numbers from us are unofficial. We have to go through every piece of paper and make it match every vote. That's what reconciliation is - matching the application form, the signature book and the number of votes on the machine. They all have to match, then we certify the election."
Another race that could be affected came down to a 56-vote difference between Fred Burton Sr. and Annette Stafford for Lebanon City Council's Ward 2 seat with Burton on top.
It's a complicated process, but Warren is confident his troops are up to the task.
"We've got an excellent team," he said. "It was an uneventful day, and that's the best day to have on Election Day."
Staff writer Mary Hinds may be reached at 444-3952, ext. 45 or email@example.com.