A Jefferson County Quorum Court race incorrectly appears on ballots in a neighboring voting precinct near Hardin, election commissioners said Monday night. The commissioners voted to strike errant votes cast in the race and instruct poll workers to inform voters to ignore the ballot error.
The Quorum Court, which is the legislative body of the county government, is divided into 13 districts of approximately equal population. Each district is divided into multiple voting precincts and is represented by a justice of the peace elected for two-year terms.
Republican Justice of the Peace Ted Harden is running unopposed in District 12. But incumbent Republican Roy Agee and Democrat challenger Eric L. Hobbs, who are facing off in the adjacent District 8, also appear on ballots for Precinct 77 in District 12, election commission chairman Mike Adam said.
Hobbs attended the meeting to learn about the error and make sure it did not affect his race, he said.
“We’ve got people who shouldn’t even be voting in the [District 8 justice of the peace] race that are voting in the race,” he said. “Hopefully we get it corrected.”
Adam said two voters in Precinct 77 told him about the error Friday. Jefferson County Clerk Patricia Royal Johnson told Adam Saturday that one vote in Precinct 77 had been cast in the Agee-Hobbs race that should not appear on the ballot, he said.
Adam said Jefferson County Election Coordinator Stacy Brown spoke with Election Systems & Software (ES&S), the company that manufactures and operates the voting machines, to find out what went wrong.
The original ballot was apparently sent to ES&S and returned with the error, Adam said.
“So it was an error in [computer] programming and … our people didn’t catch it when it came back, so it went on the ballot,” Adam said.
After speaking with the state elections officials and ES&S, Adam said he learned that erroneous votes could be manually eliminated.
“The easiest, best and most accurate solution was to not count any [District 8] ballots in Precinct 77,” Adam said. “We can manually do that. So we will take out any ballots of any races for [District 8] that are voted in the incorrect precinct.”
The District 8 candidates or their representatives will be allowed to witness that process on election night. A tape showing how many people voted in the race in each precinct will be also posted at the headquarters of the election commission.
Hobbs said he had been told by people in the Precinct 77 area that his name was not on the ballot for District 12 and that “more than one or two” people had voted in the erroneous race.
“We’re going to continue to use this ballot, even though we know it’s incorrect, throughout the whole election?” he asked.
Commissioner Stu Soffer said the commission had no choice.
“Early voting is already underway, the absentee ballots have already been printed and [the voting software] already had the [election] information uploaded into it,” Soffer said.
Hobbs, who lost to Agee in 2014 by 272 votes, or 60 percent to 39 percent, said he intended to file for a post-election audit to manually count the votes.
Soffer said auditors would perform a manual audit on election night and that commissioners would ask them to audit the results of Precinct 77.