Judge Considers How To Fix Legislative Race Ballot Problems

By Al Edenloff, Alexandria Echo Press

A Douglas County judge is expected to issue a ruling later today telling elections officials how to fix a case in which some voters were given the wrong ballots on Election Day.

His decision is critical to the outcome of a state legislative race that has Republican Rep. Mary Franson leading Democratic challenger Bob Cunniff by a single vote.

If Cunniff gets his way, some voters might need to cast new ballots.

This morning, Judge David Battey heard from attorneys for Franson and Cunniff. His decision was expected today because the Douglas County Canvassing Board is to meet tomorrow.

Franson requested the court get involved because she believes the local canvassing board lacks authority to correct errors made in the election.

The first-term representative wants 35 votes pulled at random from the precincts where there was an overvote, saying that is the proper remedy under state law.

Cunniff’s attorney argued that the error was not just a counting and recording error, but involved procedural errors made by the election judges by giving ballots to people who should not have been voting in the Franson-Cunniff race.

The Democrat wants another remedy that would be determined by a contested election board, perhaps taking actions such as inspecting the ballots, conducting a new election in the affected wards and examining the absentee ballots.

A hearing had been scheduled for Monday, but the judge assigned to the case recused herself because of a tie to Cunniff.

When Douglas County election officials examined returns last week to prepare for the recount, they noticed that 32 voters in Alexandria Wards 1 and 5 were given ballots that allowed them to vote in the Franson-Cunniff race when they were supposed to be voting in the neighboring House District 12B race. In addition, in Alexandria Ward 3, there were three more ballots cast than there were signatures on the voting roster.

Those 35 votes could loom large since Franson appeared to have won the election 10,652 to 10,651 in unofficial returns.