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Wrong ballots may prompt revote in Cole County's Eastern District  (MO)
News Tribune    07 August 2008

“Nobody's any sicker than I am over this. There was an error made and we need to take care of it.”

That's the reaction of Cole County Clerk Marvin Register to a mistake made in Tuesday's Republican Primary for Cole County Eastern District Commissioner. The error may require a new election between candidates Jeff Hoelscher and Edith Vogel.

Register revealed Thursday that 144 voters at Our Saviors Lutheran Church, which is in Jefferson City's Fourth Ward, voted on a Western District ballot, not an Eastern District. The district boundary runs through the precinct, and poll workers should have determined which ballot to give individual voters based on where they live.

Register said there were similar problems reported in Eugene, but he believes any irregularities there were rectified after it was noticed.

In consultation with County Attorney Jamie Gallaher, Register has filed suit in Cole County Circuit Court to have a judge decide what should be done.

If the judge rules that the election must be re-done, Register said his office would have to get 24 polling places ready with ballots and voting machines, as well as be prepared for absentee voting. Just getting the ballots and machines ready would cost the county $13,000.

Register said his office had to certify the election results before he could file the suit, and that was completed Thursday.

Gallaher said they expected the case to go to a judge next week because they have 14 to 30 days to get this done and by law, suits involving elections get priority.

Register said it appeared that poll workers ran their precincts, but didn't look at what he called the ballot system. He explained that after voters signed the paperwork after presenting their voter registration card, the poll workers are supposed to look at the paperwork which should indicate what district that person should vote in. Evidently they didn't look at that information.

“I just wonder why nobody didn't catch this sooner,” Register said. “We do go over with the poll workers that they need to check for this.”

Register also said that he had a private meeting Wednesday afternoon with Hoelscher and Vogel about what would happen.

Gallaher stated the court action they are taking does not preclude the candidates from taking their own legal action.

Under state law, Vogel has the right to ask for a recount since her margin of defeat to Hoelscher was less than one percent.

Tuesday's total was 1,784 for Hoelscher and 1,777 for Vogel, a difference of seven votes. There are 22,216 registered voters in the eastern district.

“We feel bad for both candidates,” said Ron Fitzwater, chairman of the Cole County Republican Central Committee. “Our role now will be to advise them of their legal rights.”

Vogel said she's waiting to see what her options could be. In an interview Wednesday, Vogel said,”I got a call from a man around 7 a.m. who told me he hadn't been given a ballot at Eugene. He said it was corrected while he was there. He said he was voter #11 and didn't know what had happened to other voters. I mentioned in passing to Mr. Register about this later Tuesday and he told me it had been taken care of.”

Hoelscher said, “I just don't know what to think. I guess all I can do is sit back and wait.”

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