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Clerk says voting problem fixed in Jefferson County

September 29, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A county official said Thursday that a voting snafu that allowed voters in three Jefferson County subdivisions to vote in the wrong state House of Delegate race in May has been corrected, but a local lawmaker said he believes a state elections official needs to be in Jefferson County during the Nov. 7 general election to make sure the process runs smoothly.

Earlier this week, officials said that voters in the Huntfield, Briar Run and Fairfax Crossing housing developments in Jefferson County were allowed to vote in the wrong state House of Delegate races in the May 9 primary election.

Del. Bob Tabb said Huntfield residents were allowed to cast ballots in the 58th delegate district race when they should have been allowed to cast ballots in the 56th delegate district race. It happened because voters were assigned to the wrong precinct, officials said.

In the Briar Run and Fairfax Crossing subdivisions in Ranson, voters were allowed to cast ballots in the 58th delegate district race when they should have voted in the 57th house of delegates race, said Tabb, D-Jefferson.

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Tabb represents the 56th delegate district, Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, represents the 57th district and Del. Locke Wysong, D-Jefferson, represents the 58th district.

The mix-up did not affect any races in the primary election because none of the candidates was opposed.

Jefferson County Clerk Jennifer Maghan, whose office oversees local elections, said the mix-up stemmed from annexations that have shifted county residents to municipal districts. Although the problem occurred because of voters being assigned to the wrong precinct, Maghan said in a statement Wednesday that 296 voters have been transferred to the proper precincts and letters notifying the voters of the change were to be sent to them Thursday.

"All is well," Maghan told the Jefferson County Commission Thursday.

Tabb told commission members he believes a representative from the state Secretary of State's office needs to be in Jefferson County during the Nov. 7 general election to make sure the process runs smoothly.

The state Secretary of State's office oversees elections in the state.

Considering that the county has new voting machines and that there were other issues during the primary election - including ballots from a Leetown, W.Va., precinct that were temporarily lost - Tabb said it is important that state officials be on hand for help.

"It's such a vital issue to this community to make sure we have a process that's done in a proper manner," Tabb said.

Commission member Dale Manuel said he wants to make sure county elections are fair and equitable, and Commission member Rusty Morgan said he wonders if the Secretary of State's office has a plan to help counties in the general election.

Morgan said one problem with local elections is the limited space for voting operations in the Jefferson County Courthouse. As a result, ballots are sometimes "moving around throughout the courthouse" as they are being counted, Morgan said.

Maghan said the issue regarding the missing ballots from the Leetown precinct stemmed from questions about signatures on the ballots.

Maghan said the ballots were set aside temporarily in the commission meeting room where vote counting is conducted.

"It was right there in the window," Maghan said, referring to a spot across the room.

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