By Blake Spurney
NEWTON — Nearly 300 votes were added to the official tallies Thursday, Nov. 12, during the election canvass, but no outcomes were changed.
Commission Chairman Randy Hague recused himself from participating in the canvass since he was on the ballot and Commission Ron Krehbiel was absent. County Attorney David Yoder and County Treasurer Emily Nichols joined Commissioner George “Chip” Westfall in the canvass.
County Clerk Rick Piepho described the different categories of the nearly 392 provisional ballots and 12 challenged ballots. Of the 7,928 ballots that were mailed out, 6,820 were returned. Piepho said that total was way higher than any previous election in which he took part. He said 200 ballots received after Election Day met all the requirements to be counted.
Among the provisional ballots that were counted were cast by 99 people who had moved within the county, but didn’t re-register before the election. Piepho said those who moved always received the proper ballot for their new residence.
Eleven more voters had their names changed by marriage. A dozen more ballots were classified as provisional because of a technical error, such as a misspelling in voting records. Both groups of ballots were added to the total.
The largest group of provisional ballots came from 154 people who requested advanced ballots and then went and voted in person. Piepho said those votes should be counted, as long as the elections office verified each person voted just once.
The canvass board accepted three challenged ballots from voters who initially didn’t sign their advance ballots. Piepho said 38 people were contacted about their unsigned ballots and all but 10 were corrected by the previous Friday. Three of those signed prior to the canvass and the other seven ballots were disallowed.
Other votes not counted were those cast by people who didn’t register before the election. Piepho said those ballots would not be opened. The board ruled out another ballot cast by a convicted felon. Piepho said state law was clear that felons were not allowed to vote. He also noted that when someone died before an election, his or her ballot was no longer valid.
Piepho’s totals initially listed the number of those not registered in Harvey County as 115. However, a hand count during the canvass came up with a total of 116. The mistake was discovered when Deputy Clerk Carmen Reimer and Elections Clerk Meredith Morris were counting the number of ballots from those who voted in person after being mailed ballots. That total initially was listed as 155, but later adjusted to 154. Reimer, at one point, looked under the table for what was assumed to be a missing ballot. Staff then recounted the other stack of those not registered in the county.
“That folks is why we do this,” Westfall said.
Piepho gave the canvass board the option of amending the totals or waiting for his staff to go through each ballot. He later explained the error of one ballot in the totals was a miscalculation.
The closest race was that for Walton Township treasurer. Current Treasurer Kevin Sauerwein won with four write-in votes, while no other candidate received more than three. Piepho said he didn’t think any of the provisional ballots came from Walton.
In the next closest county race, Hague increased his lead over challenger Christy Schunn by seven votes, to 128.