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VOL. 129 | NO. 101 | Friday, May 23, 2014

May County Primary Results Certified

By Bill Dries

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The closest race in the May Shelby County primary elections turned into a tale of the tape Wednesday, May 21, as the Shelby County Election Commission certified the results of that and all of the other races on the ballot.

Local election officials certified the results of the May Shelby County primaries Wednesday and are preparing for the August election.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

The Democratic primary for Shelby County Commission District 10 was the closest race of the primary contests, with Reginald Milton winning the three-way contest by 26 votes in the unofficial returns, followed by Martavius Jones in second and Jake Brown trailing in third.

But Jones said the precinct-by-precinct totals he saw conflicted with the overall unofficial totals for the district.

Before Wednesday’s Election Commission vote to certify the results, Jones and an attorney for Milton inspected the raw data.

Jones’ claim shifted when he noticed that a tape of results for only one of four election machines at the Rozelle Elementary School polling place had been printed out election night.

The tapes for the other three machines were printed out later. But Jones argued that the failure to print them on election night should disqualify the results from those three machines.

“It seems like there should be some checks and balances,” he told the commission. “It could just be a technicality. But if you omit the other three machines, I win by nine votes.”

“We want an accurate count,” said attorney Charles S. Higgins of Burch, Porter & Johnson PLLC, representing Milton. “We’ve run the tapes. … The results from those tapes correspond with the results that have been reported. … To exclude three machines would be to exclude votes that were validly cast in this election.

“We believe, based on what we’ve seen today, the Election Commission has an accurate count.”

The five-member commission agreed and certified the audited results in that and all of the other races as a group.

Taking into account the five provisional ballots in the District 10 races, which were not counted on election night, Milton beat Jones by 25 votes.

Milton faces Republican nominee Geoff Diaz and independent Chris Boyd in the August general election.

Election Commission attorney John Ryder said Jones can contest the results through the Shelby County Democratic Party’s primary board now that the results have been certified.

Election Commissioner Norma Lester abstained from voting on the certification, saying she could no longer “in good conscience” vote to certify results she got the same day of the vote.

“It feels like I’m rubber-stamping something and I cannot in good conscience do that anymore,” she said.

Meanwhile, the commission set the early voting period for the August ballot, which includes state and federal primary elections as well as county general and nonpartisan elections.

The early voting period in advance of the Aug. 7 election day is July 18 to Aug. 2.

Early voting at satellite locations is from July 21 to Aug. 2.

Election commissioners are still exploring changing the basic Election Commission office early voting site at 157 Poplar Ave. that opens before the satellite locations.

Election Administrator Richard Holden said changing the location would, in some cases, “change the problem but won’t necessarily solve it.”

The Election Commission was criticized by several Democratic primary candidates on the May ballot for not having a more centralized location than the Downtown offices and having fewer days for satellite early voting than at the Downtown site.

Holden said the schedule was based on turnout for the county primary election cycle, which overall was 10 percent of the county’s voters and which has never been at 20 percent or more in the 22-year history of county partisan primaries.

Holden also said Wednesday that because of state law, the statewide judicial retention elections will be at the bottom of the August ballot along with referendum questions.

As Holden and his staff put the finishing touches on the August sample ballot to come by the end of this month, candidates in the November suburban elections in Bartlett, Collierville and Germantown will begin pulling qualifying petitions Friday, May 23, to run in the nonpartisan races for mayor and aldermen. They have until Aug. 21 at noon to file.

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