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Officials pepper clerk with questions about special election

August 26, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Poll workers bringing election returns to the Jefferson County Courthouse after a June special election found the county clerk absent, the county's Democratic chairman alleged Thursday.

Mike Cassell said the fact that County Clerk Jennifer S. Maghan, who was elected to the post in November, was not in the courthouse at 7:30 p.m. when the polls closed was one of several major "election bungles" attributed to Maghan.

Maghan was questioned Thursday afternoon by the Jefferson County Commissioners about problems during the June 25 vote. The commissioners told the clerk they needed to be assured that next year's primary and general election are conducted properly.

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Maghan, a Republican, took office Jan. 1. This was her first election.

Commissioner Rusty Morgan told Maghan that she should have sought advice if she wasn't sure how to handle things.

"You have to be absolutely sure you devise a plan with a backup," he said.

Commissioner Dale Manuel recommended that Maghan draft a "written protocol" on election procedures that election workers and the commissioners could follow.

Commissioner Greg Corliss suggested that Maghan's office hold rehearsals before elections.

"There is a wealth of information on elections in this county," Commissioner Jane Tabb said.

Maghan and the commissioners also spoke of the need to redistrict voting precincts because of growth in some areas of the county. Any changes have to be made by Dec. 31 since redistricting is prohibited in election years.

The commissioners and Maghan may also have to deal with new voting machines if a decision is made to bring them in next year.

Maghan, in her office Thursday after meeting with the commissioners, admitted that she got to the courthouse at 7:41 on June 25. She had been delivering meals all day to poll workers in the county's 29 voting precincts, she said.

She said Commissioner Dale Manuel arrived at the courthouse before she did and helped poll workers bring in the boxes.

Cassell and Reva Mickey, a member of the state Democratic Executive Committee, complained to the commissioners last week about polls opening late, ballots left unattended and distractions in several polling places.

Polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. on election days in West Virginia. Cassell and Mickey alleged that one precinct opened at 10 a.m. because poll workers did not show up on time and another precinct was disrupted because of a basketball clinic in the same building.

Maghan also told the commissioners she had trouble recruiting poll workers. She said she tried unsuccessfully to write letters notifying affected voters whose polling places had to be changed.

"Not one Republican has complained about this election, just Democrats," Maghan said.

Cassell said his and Mickey's attempts to question Maghan's handling of the election is not partisan.

"Elections have to be run properly no matter what the party," he said.

He and Mickey, whose husband, G. Warren Mickey, lost a bid for a county commissioners seat to Morgan, were not allowed to speak at the meeting.

They said they would request a place on the agenda for Thursday's meeting.

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