By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - The problems that plagued Mineral County on Election Night are apparently not over, as a mistake has been discovered in the vote tallies released at the end of the process Wednesday morning.
Election workers handling the ballot-counting process Tuesday evening found themselves battling with an opt-scan machine that had difficulty counting the large number of folded absentee ballots, which backed up the counting process for hours.
Then, at approximately 4:15 a.m., with only seven precincts left to count, a sensor went out on the machine and the process had to be halted until a technician could come in Wednesday morning and switch out the faulty sensor.
The final, unofficial results, were finally in hand shortly after 9 a.m. Wednesday.
According to county clerk Lauren Ellifritz, however, she discovered an error in the totals Thursday afternoon as she reviewed paperwork from the election.
“On Election Night, the early and absentee ballots were processed first, and the results were downloaded to generate a report to distribute to those in the audience,” she explained. “In the process, the Election Night Management program was not reset to zero before the next report was generated. This resulted in a duplication of those votes only.
“As the county clerk it is my responsibility and I apologize to the candidates and their families, however this did not change any local races as it doubled the early and absentee totals for ALL candidates.”
Upon discovering the discrepancy, the clerk contacted the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office immediately to advised them of the situation and for direction to correct the error. The Secretary of State’s Office noted that election night totals are unofficial and that the purpose of the canvass is to clear up such discrepancies.
The new totals for the two county contested races are as follows:
Sheriff: Forrest “Buddy” Ellifritz, 1,421; Keith Anderson, 1,302; Rod Ryan, 590; and Jon Baniak, 483.
Board of education: District 1: Donald Ashby, 2,482; William “Butch” Wahl, 2,177; and District 2 (uncontested) Tom Denne, 3,426.
Only after the canvass are the totals official.
Clerk Ellifritz has requested that a representative of the Secretary of State’s Office be present for the canvass to maintain the integrity and process so that the Mineral County voters can be assured that the process was completed fairly and within state code.
The canvass will be held on Monday, June 15, 2020 at 9 a.m. at the Mineral County Courthouse, in the courtroom, and is open to the public.