Carver’s margin of victory grows after Ward 1 miscalculation

Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver (courtesy)
For Starkville Daily News

Incumbent Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver saw his margin of victory grow on Friday following an examination of ballot box machine tapes at the request of Democratic challenger Christine Williams.

Three ballot box machine tapes for Ward 1 were examined by three out of the five members of the Municipal Election Commission, City Clerk Lesa Hardin and Democrat Christine Williams. The examination happened after Williams reached out to the City Clerk’s office last Friday afternoon concerning a miscalculation of the number of voters in the Ward 1 General Election.

Williams said during the examination of the ballot box machine tapes, the Election Commissioners looked in the log book at the notes they made that night and then realized what went wrong. When they were calling out the numbers on each tape, the numbers written down for machine Number 0 were also written down for machine Number 2.

“That's what put the vote total off and it ended up being off by 158 votes,” Williams said. “Again it didn't change the outcome, it just changed the actual difference between the number of votes that Ben Carver earned and the number that I earned.”

Election commissioners Jim McKell, Nancy Walsh and P.C. McLaurin were present and voted to only examine the machine tapes for accuracy before they sent the final election certification to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office.

Williams told the SDN Tuesday afternoon she realized the number of people who voted in the election wasn't accurate.

Williams said she called the City Clerk’s office last Friday and asked what numbers were going to be certified.

She said Hardin told her the numbers were 349 to 344 votes, despite the initial total being 542 ballots cast.

“Those numbers actually don't add up to the physical voters that were at the (National Guard Armory),” Williams said. “I'm not contesting to the fact that Ben won fair and square, but when you certify the numbers they need to be accurate.”

In an email from Hardin sent to all seven aldermen, City Attorney Chris Latimer and Mayor Parker Wiseman last Friday, it was said that Friday was not a ballot box examination by Williams. Williams did not touch or see anything in the box. Rather, a copy of the three machine tapes totals were given to Williams, emailed to Carver and provided to Oktibbeha County Republican Executive Committee Chair Marnita Henderson.

Ahead of the machine tape examination Friday, Hardin called to notify Carver. However, attempts by the City Clerk to reach Carver were unsuccessful. Williams tried reaching out to Carver as well, but she received no answer and decided to text Carver's wife to relay the message to him.

Carver told the SDN Tuesday afternoon he wished he could have been present, but to his knowledge nothing was done illegally.

Carver - a Republican who will now serve his third term on the Board - acknowledged attempts to contact him, but said he wasn't around his phone at the time to answer it.

“Anytime you open boxes, I think it's a courtesy to anybody involved, each candidate, that you properly wait until they're both there,” Carver said. “Either way, it' very positive news, I won by more than expected.”

Carver won by 277 votes to 258, making it a 19 vote lead instead of five. He has officially been certified as the winner in Ward 1.

Henderson told the SDN no Republican representation was present because no one knew about it before it happened.

“It's done and we won, so we're going to move on,” Henderson said. “We'll just get ready to go ahead and our aldermen will do their job of taking care of the city's business.”

June 14 is the deadline for Municipal Election Commissioners to send a statement certifying the names of the winning candidates to Mississippi Secretary of State.