By Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
Did you get the correct ballot when you voted in the primary election this year? If you didn’t get the correct ballot, would you have known?
Most folks probably know what magisterial district they are in, and who their magistrate is. However, we had a few people reach out to the newspaper this election season asking us who their magistrate was. They weren’t sure where the boundary lines lay, and which races they needed to be paying attention to.
When we received these types of inquiries, we directed folks to contact the county clerk or the fiscal court to figure out which district their property was in. We were, and are, confident they provided correct answers to any of these inquiries.
But a few recent contacts about the magisterial races, particularly, have us wondering if everyone who voted received the correct ballot and voted in the correct magisterial race.
The question first came to my attention when District Four Magistrate Donnie Oppenheimer reached out to tell me his election day story. Oppenheimer, the incumbent, lost to challenger Clifford “Sodbuster” Roe by one vote 169 to 168. But Oppenheimer also says when he went to vote, he was handed the incorrect ballot to start with. Oppenheimer said when he told the poll worker he had been given the incorrect ballot they initially tried to argue with him that he had been given the correct ballot. It was only when Oppenheimer told the poll worker he was a candidate, and his name was not on the ballot he received, that they gave him the proper ballot.
Oppenheimer told me he heard similar stories from other voters in his district. Some noticed and asked for the correct ballot. But when others who had supported him told him they weren’t able to vote for him it made him wonder if everyone who might have voted for him had the opportunity to – and if people who shouldn’t have voted in his district might have voted for him or his opponent.
State and county wide races would not have been impacted, being the same across all ballots, so some may not have noticed if they received the wrong ballot, Oppenheimer said, or may have noticed but been too timid to ask about or contest the omission of their magistrate.
It wasn’t an issue confined to Oppenheimer or to the Democratic primary either. Voters supporting Danny Joe Holbrook, who won the Republican primary with more than 75 percent of the vote, reported having to request the proper ballot as well.
County Clerk Mike Johnston, whose office oversees and certifies the vote count, said it was a legitimate concern. With all districts voting in the same locations, he said, it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility that some ballots could get mixed up. In those cases, he said, the poll workers should have replaced them when it was brought to their attention. While he couldn’t comment on the attitudes or actions of poll workers, who are not employees of his office, he said he had expressed similar concerns about mix-ups to the board of elections when they were discussing the possibility of consolidating polling places.
Johnston said he had supported maintaining polling places within local districts, at least for county elections. However, the board of elections, acting on advice from the state level, chose to create only four voting districts, he said, and to place all four within the city limits of Grayson or Olive Hill.
Even if everyone in this last election voted in the correct race, the difference between Roe and Oppenheimer points out the importance of voting, and the power of each and every vote cast, critics of this year’s primary process said. That alone, they said, points to the importance of making sure all voters are able to access the polls.
If you believe you received the wrong ballot for your magisterial district, or had to ask for the correct ballot after receiving an incorrect ballot, please contact the Carter County Times by email at email@example.com, telephone at (606)225-1258 and leave a message if no answer, or through our Facebook page.
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