Complaint filed on Wayne voting machines
WAYNE -- Wayne County Commissioner Rick Wellman has filed a complaint with the Secretary of State's Office claiming that the county's touch-screen voting machines malfunctioned during the primary election.
Several residents have come forward to complain they had difficulty selecting the candidate they wanted to vote for on the touch screen, Wellman said Thursday. He also said in his complaint that he believes unauthorized people accessed some of the voting machines at the polls on election day, which was May 13.
Wayne County Clerk Bob Pasley, however, says Wellman's complaint is part of an ongoing effort to smear Pasley's reputation. Pasley defeated longtime County Commissioner Jim Booton 5,476 to 4,504 in the Democratic primary, according to unofficial results.
"I beat Jim Booton, and that's the bottom line," Pasley said. "Rick Wellman didn't get his way, so now he is on a campaign to smear my name, my honesty and integrity after I have spent 31 years in this office."
Pasley, who has been at odds with county commissioners over the past several years, also said Wellman posted inaccurate comments and "flat-out lies" about him on local blogs before the election.
Wellman also provided copies of affidavits from seven Wayne County residents who claimed they encountered problems at the polls. One of the affidavits was signed by Wellman's daughter.
Wellman said the county commission has handed out at least 50 more affidavit forms, but they haven't been returned yet.
J D Prince, who voted at Prichard Elementary School, was one of the five residents who have signed an affidavit. He said he wanted to vote for Tom Jarrell for magistrate, but when he touched Jarrell's name on the screen, candidate Jason Stephens' name popped up. Prince canceled his vote, and the machine worked correctly the second time.
"Had I not noticed the problem, I would have lost my vote," Prince said. "I've got family that vote at Crum Middle School and Dunlow Elementary and they say the same kind of thing happened there, too."
Stephens, who lost his bid to become a Wayne magistrate, filed a complaint with the Secretary of State's Office. He said when he voted on election day, he had to cancel his vote four times in the Board of Education race.
"It wasn't until the fifth time that the machine recorded my vote correctly," he said.
During canvassing this week, the county commission has found several instances in which voters had to cast their ballot multiple times in a race because the voting machines recorded their vote for the wrong candidate, Wellman said. Though only a small number of paper receipts have been checked thus far, the errors appear to be widespread and affect several races, including president, sheriff, magistrate, board of education, commissioner of agriculture, secretary of state and county commission, Wellman said.
The commission will not certify the election results until the Secretary of State's Office investigates the matter, which it has agreed to do, Wellman said. Deputy Secretary of State Sarah Bailey declined to comment on the matter. State law prohibits the office from commenting on election complaints, she said.
Pasley said there were voting problems on election day, but nothing out of the ordinary. Touch-screen voting machines are calibrated just before they are transported to their precincts, and it appeared some were jarred loose en route, he said.
Pasley estimated he recalibrated 10 to 12 voting machines at precincts on election day. He is the only election official who recalibrates machines, he said.
Cabell County Clerk Karen Cole said it's not uncommon for a touch-screen voting machine to lose its calibration en route to a precinct. Cabell County also uses the iVotronic Touch Screen Voting System. Cole said her staff recalibrated six voting machines on election day.
But Wellman's daughter, Marcie Eseli, signed an affidavit claiming she saw a man open a voting machine at the Bison Center while she was voting on election day. The man was accompanied by Pasley, Eseli said in her statement.
Pasley said that man was Greg Potter, a former county official who has volunteered in elections for the past 15 years. However, he said it was not Potter who opened the voting machine.
"It was me. I had to recalibrate one of the machines. Greg was standing by me holding tools," Pasley said. "The only thing he does is travel around with me on election day. He'll check to see if paper rolls are low, but that's about it."