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Lexington town leaders criticize slow vote count

By TIM FLACH  The State   08 November 2004

Lexington town leaders promise to end delays that kept the local election?s outcome under wraps until early Wednesday morning.

Some Town Council members are demanding that results tabulated from voting machines be disclosed as soon as they are available.

?I want a clear message that this is what we expect,? said Councilwoman Hazel Leggett-Tyndall, who was re-elected.

After Tuesday?s balloting, town election officials counted 540 paper absentee ballots by hand before releasing results.

Election officials spent 3? hours on that count, ignoring repeated requests from other town officials to post the tally from the 3,300 ballots automatically counted by the machines.

All ballots were totaled and announced en masse shortly after midnight, well after a crowd of 100, including some candidates, had dwindled.

?I?m a little disappointed in the lateness of the results,? Mayor-elect Randy Halfacre said. ?There probably could have been some things done differently.?

Results from three of six precincts were in before the absentee count began. Totals from the other three came in within an hour after.

?We didn?t want to quit on the absentee ballots,? town election commission chairman Fred Sons said. ?It was an executive decision I made.?

It was the wrong decision, Leggett-Tyndall said.

She plans to propose guidelines requiring rapid public reporting of town ballots. The next local elections are in two years.

Meanwhile, town officials are searching for a way to tally more than 200 ballots stuck in a broken voting machine.

Those uncounted ballots aren?t crucial to determining the outcome of the race for mayor and three council posts.

Candidates supported by foes of the local 2 percent meal tax swept to victory Tuesday, ousting three incumbents who favor it.

Those elected, in addition to Halfacre and Leggett-Tyndall, are newcomers Kathy Maness and Ted Stambolitis.

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