Poll glitch sparks corruption claims from challenger (VA)
Northern Neck News. By Alex J. Berkman (approx. November 13, 2009)
Votes cast in three Lancaster County precincts had to be counted by hand last week after multiple machines malfunctioned, sparking claims of "cronyism" and "corruption" from one candidate.
All the ballots cast were correct, but the optical reader did not process many of them, said Gilbert Dorman, electoral board vice-chairman for Lancaster County. "They wouldn't print tape with a number on it."
Precincts 1, 4 and 301 had problems with the optical readers, said Barbara Breeden, electoral board chairwoman.
More than 230 missing votes in the first precinct led Richard Pleasants, candidate for District 1 supervisor, to call for a recount.
"There is going to be a manual recount of the votes in Lancaster County District 1... Apparently, there is vast incompetence and potentially corruption in our local Lancaster County Board of Elections," Pleasants wrote in an E-mail sent to local media outlets after the election.
Pleasants did not return phone calls requesting comment regarding his allegations.
The machine malfunctioned, but the missing votes were tallied during a manual recount from November 12 to 14, Dorman said.
"There was no miscount."
There was no change in the results, following the hand recount, he confirmed.
"This place is so full of corruption it is sickening," Pleasants asserted in another E-mail.
The corruption cited by Pleasants is unfounded and foolhardy at best, though, said F.W. "Butch" Jenkins, incumbent district 1 supervisor.
"I don't know what he's talking about," Jenkins said. "I feel like I fell asleep and woke up in a 'Little Rascals' movie."
Claims of corruption towards county election officials are also unwarranted, said Peggy Harding, county registrar.
"We had some problems with our machines," Harding said. "People just don't vote for certain things."
Both Pleasants and Jenkins, with representation, were present for the recount, Harding said. Pleasants was silent during the tally. Jenkins left before the final results were announced.
No formal request for a second recount has been made by Pleasants as of press time, according to county election officials and circuit court clerks.
"[Pleasants] can do what he wants to do," Dorman said. "That's between him, Mr. Jenkins and the county."
Jenkins, who won the election by more than 200 votes, said that Pleasants congratulated him and conceded late last week in the county administration offices, but won't be surprised by a request for a recount.
"He's the only person saying something doesn't smell right," Jenkins said. "I'm glad the better man won."