Polk elections board denies protest from Republicans

Published 5:42 pm Thursday, November 20, 2008

The protesters raised points that they had brought up previously in a preliminary hearing earlier in the week, although they offered a little more detail.

They questioned whether some people had been allowed to vote twice in some of the precincts, whether some election machines were unsealed and whether provisional votes were accurately counted.

They also questioned why election results were incorrect on election night, and had to be revised the next day after a state elections official provided assistance.

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Polk election officials responded to each of the questions. They said nobody was allowed to vote twice during the election. They noted that in some cases the same name appeared twice on election rolls, but there were different birthdates, showing that they were in fact different people with the same name.

Officials said all of the provisional ballots were handled properly. Only six of the 22 provisional ballots were certified. The others were never opened because the ballots did not come from registered Polk County voters.

The Republicans questioned why there were different totals at one time with a discrepancy of about 23 votes. Polk County elections director Dale Edwards explained that the difference resulted from the inclusion of the provisional and curbside ballots.

Edwards explained that there was confusion about the results on election night, and she returned to the elections office, along with elections board chair Becky Kennedy, to double check results. She rebooted the reporting computer, she says, but was unable to resolve problems with printing the final results.

After being up for 23 hours, she says, she finally decided to go home and return in the morning to discuss the issue with state elections officials.

A state official helped resolve the &dquo;computer glitch&dquo; and produce an accurate report of the election results. A revised total was then released by the elections office.

Edwards said at the hearing that no votes were ever altered, and she indicated she wouldn&squo;t know how to alter them in the computer anyway.

Owens, an incumbent who lost by just six votes, expressed frustration that he was not contacted sooner when election officials realized there were reporting problems. Based on initial results, Owens thought he had finished second and he secured one of three open commissioner seats. But he learned the next day that he had finished fourth, just behind Democrat Ray Gasperson.

The elections board has certified the victories of Democrats Cindy Walker, the top vote getter, and Renee-McDermott, the runner-up. Following the denial of the protest, the board can proceed with certification of Gasperson.

It&squo;s unclear whether Owens or the Republicans will appeal the denial to the state board of elections.