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Tribunal held in Harpers Ferry provisional ballot issue

By Staff | Aug 30, 2019

HARPERS FERRY – An election contest tribunal was held in Harpers Ferry on Saturday, where the Harpers Ferry election canvassing board heard testimony regarding provisional ballots that were denied during the June town elections.

Contestors in the proceedings, Nancy Case and Deborah McGee, were represented by Greg Bailey, while contestees who refused to count the provisional votes were represented by Zach Ritchie and Brian Donovan.

At issue in the case is whether the Board of Canvassers for the election should count several provisional ballots, since results in the council race for Case and McGee were determined by as few as two votes. Bailey asked the election board to count the provisional ballots, which were denied based on clerical error and technical oversights.

“Your choice is to protect your citizens’ right to vote,” Bailey said. “The simple issue is that four citizens who cast votes are being denied.”

The four ballots in question were refused at canvassing, because the voters were not listed in the Harpers Ferry poll book, the official record of duly registered voters in the corporate limits. Each of the four votes, Leah Howe, George and Linda McCarty and Adam Hutton, were recorded in the Bolivar poll book because their street addresses were all labeled as “West Washington Street” rather than simply “Washington Street.”

Bailey’s first witness in the proceedings was Chief Deputy Clerk of Elections for Jefferson County Nikki Painter.

According to Painter, all four voters in question registered to vote at the Division of Motor Vehicles, whose system automatically assigned the “West Washington Street” designation, which is done after a certain house number has been reached. When those voters’ registrations were then submitted to the county election office, the “West” designation indicated they were in the town of Bolivar.

Each of the voters testified, with the exception of Howe, who was not present. In cross examination, Donovan asked each of the voters in question whether Harpers Ferry recorder and election official Kevin Carden had contacted them regarding the election or the legal challenge to the election. All replied in the negative.

Donovan called to the witness stand both Case and McGee, asking questions regarding the procedure they followed when requesting a recount of the votes after the election and why they have moved further in the case.

“After much thought I was reticent. It was my own decision to see these votes counted,” Case said.

Donovan then questioned Case on who was paying the legal fees for her and for McGee in the case. Case indicated several individuals were paying, including Karen Schaufeld, owner of the Hilltop.

“Karen Schaufeld has made contributions,” Case said.

Donovan then called Carden to the stand; however, as a member of the canvassing board, Carden refused to testify. Had he taken the stand, he would then have to recuse himself from any deliberations in the case.

In closing, Bailey said the provisional ballots should be counted and citizens not disenfranchised because of a “governmental bureaucratic nightmare at the DMV.”

The official transcript of the testimony was to be returned to the canvassing body by Aug. 28, so they can determine whether the provisional ballots will be opened. No timeline for a decision was given at Saturday’s proceedings.