Absentee ballots determine races

Published 11:42 pm Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Absentee ballots helped secure wins in two Troy council races this year.

Before absentee ballots were counted, Shelby Tuck trailed incumbent District 1 Councilman Charlie Dunn by only 20 votes. Dunn won the race by 78 votes in the unofficial final count.

In District 5, more than 50 percent of the ballots were cast absentee. Before the absentee ballots were counted, incumbent Councilwoman Wanda Moultry had 137 votes to Dejerilyn Henderson’s 187. By the end, Henderson won 306 to 254.

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“Absentee ballots can make a tremendous difference,” Henderson said. “The absentees in District 5 usually determine the winner.”

Although she was triumphant in Tuesday’s municipal elections, Henderson said voter education about absentee ballots would be a priority for her – and not just because she wants people to vote.

Henderson said she was happy with the overall outcome of the election, but that she wasn’t going to let the faults she sees with absentee ballots in Troy slide.

“Just because I won doesn’t mean there wasn’t a problem with absentee ballots,” Henderson said. Henderson said there are 2,044 registered voters in District 5 and 309 people requested absentee ballots for this election.

Henderson said she believes many voters were confused about the process.

“I want people to know what they sign,” Henderson said, adding that some District 5 residents expressed concerns to her Tuesday about the absentee ballot process.

Henderson said one voter told her he arrived at the polls and was told he had to vote a provisional ballot since he had applied for an absentee ballot, which he said he never received. “These people had no clue,” Henderson said.

Moultry said she did not have the same concerns over the process.

“Based on what I see here, most ballots have been returned,” Moultry said, scanning a list of voters who requested an absentee ballot. “If an absentee ballot went to anybody else’s address, they were aware of it. Whatever ballots we got, they knew about it.”

Henderson said records showed multiple ballots were sent to the same address on Segars Street, which she said was affiliated with a supporter of Moultry.

Troy City Clerk Alton Starling said that he legally couldn’t say where absentee ballots were mailed, but he did say people could request a ballot be sent to an address other than their own. He also said voters who request absentee ballots must fill out the application on their own and must return the request either in person or mail it in. However, he said, candidates can legally provide a stamp and an envelope to a voter.

“My job is to blindly follow the law,” Starling said. “It is up to the system to eventually take care of anything out of the ordinary. Our job is ministerial”

Starling said anyone who goes to the poll to vote, but has also requested an absentee ballot must cast their vote using a provisional ballot. Poll inspectors then flag that ballot and the Board of Registrars holds an investigation that lasts a week to determine if a person voted twice. If someone did vote in two ways, the Pike County Sheriff’s Department steps in to investigate voter fraud.