By Greg Bird
Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes appeared to unjustly single out McCreary County Clerk Eric Haynes’ Office in an apparent attack on a new law removing her as Chair of the State Board of Elections.
In a letter presented to the State Board of Elections Tuesday Grimes states she is unable to certify the votes from the May 21 Primary Election due to more than 50 errors found in vote total reporting in 20 counties, including McCreary.
In the letter Grimes, incorrectly as it turns out, specifically mentions McCreary vote totals for Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarrels with only 271 votes in an early unofficial report, as opposed to the 832 he officially received.
It turns out the error was not at the county level, but at the state level, and Grimes apologized to Haynes for the error.
Haynes, who was attending the Kentucky County Clerks Association Conference in Covington this week said he was upset at the accusation when he first heard it, and began contacting election officials to clear up the issue.
“Our vote totals are correct, and the State Board of Elections backs us up,” he said. “The error that Secretary Grimes was referring to came about at the state level when a clerk apparently transposed the numbers from the Commissioner of Agriculture race for McCreary County. It has since been corrected on their end.”
Haynes said he personally spoke to Secretary Grimes Wednesday morning who apologized to him for the error and said she would issue a retraction to the comment.
“I have always strived to be as unbiased as possible when conducting elections in McCreary County,” Haynes added.
Sheila Walker, with the State Board of Elections confirmed Haynes’ statement Wednesday, stating the mistake with the McCreary County vote reporting came at her level, not at the local level.
Grimes’ comments come on the heels of legislation passed this past year removing her as the Chair of the Board of Elections.
The Voice has been a constant presence in Clerk Haynes’ office throughout the election tabulation procedures and witness to the vote tabulation process throughout his term of office. Haynes’ staff uses a three-prong system to independently record vote totals from all precincts. One Deputy Clerk enters the data from each voting machine in to the computer to compile totals to be sent to the State Board of Elections. Before the data is uploaded, two other Deputy Clerks record votes by hand from each precinct using the printout from the machines on a recapitulation sheet. Those totals are added up and verified against each other, precinct by precinct, to ensure the count is accurate. Only once all three totals are verified will the final report be sent to the state.
The official election recapitulation sheet issued the night of the election shows Quarles to have the correct number of votes.