Election Day is a day that voices are to be heard. But for up to 40 Nicholasville residents who received the wrong ballot at precinct C-105, located at the Jessamine County Fire District station No. 1, their voices will not be heard in the Nicholasville City Commission race and the public question regarding a proposed change of government.
The crux of the problem was a paperwork snafu at the precinct, Jessamine County Clerk Eva McDaniel said. That precinct serves south Nicholasville, but includes a few residents in the Thompson Lane area who do not get to vote in city elections, and that caused a mix-up early Tuesday morning.
“When they called, we responded and went out there, and the precinct officer said they had two ballots and I gave out the wrong one,” McDaniel said.
Afterward, McDaniel contacted the offices of the Kentucky Secretary of State and the Kentucky Attorney General seeking advice.
“They got an opinion from their attorneys saying that the voter has to take some responsibility and refuse the ballot and call (the county clerk’s office) immediately,” McDaniel said. “They should have told the precinct's officers that they wanted to talk to the county clerk.”
Nicholasville’s Dale Horton said he did bring the error to the poll workers' attention and was brushed off.
“When I got up there to vote, I signed my name in, and then they handed me the sheet,” Horton said. “I looked at the sheet; there was nothing for city commissioners. So I thought there was two sheets stuck together, so I checked that and it wasn’t; I flipped the sheet over, and there was nothing on the back ... and I was about to cast my vote, and I asked the lady, I said, 'I didn’t get to vote for city commissioners.' She said, 'Everybody doesn’t get to vote for city commissioners; if they’re not on the sheet, then you don’t get to vote for them.'”
Horton, who lives in the Southbrook subdivision, said he suspected the election officer gave an incorrect answer but he did not have time to debate the issue.
“I know better because I’ve worked elections before, so I knew that wasn’t right, but I had to be at work at 7, so I didn’t have time to argue,” he said. “I said, ‘Well, I live in the city.’ And she said, ‘Well, if it’s not on the sheet, then you don’t get to vote for them.’ So I left it at that because I didn’t have time to argue.”
Horton said he left disappointed because he felt his voice was not heard regarding city elections.
“I went down there with the expectations for voting for city commissioners,” Horton said. “That was my expectation, but that wasn’t the way it was.”
Jessamine County fire chief Mike Rupard, who also lives in Southbrook, said he brought the error to the poll workers' attention after casting his ballot.
“They should have stopped (the voting process) right then,” Rupard said. “They should have corrected the problem right then, but they didn’t.”City-commission candidate Betty Black, who lost her 2010 re-election bid by three votes, said she has also received complaints and has lodged a complaint on the Kentucky Secretary of State’s hotline.
“I’ve had several phone calls about this, talking about the C-105 precinct,” Black said. “I lost by one vote last time, and I’ve worked hard on this campaign. And if I lose, I want it to be the Lord’s will, and not nobody else’s.”
Black said not only does she feel cheated that some voters who may have wished to vote for her didn’t have the chance, but she suspects other city-commission candidates feel the same way. Black said she plans to speak to McDaniel regarding the issues voters have raised.
City commissioner Johnny Collier said he and other commission candidates have also fielded phone calls regarding the county fire department precinct and a precinct in the Lu Carlton subdivision.
“(City commissioner) Doug (Blackford) just called me, and he said that somebody had just called him who lives in Lu Carlton and said that when they went to vote, city commissioners were not on that ballot, either,” Collier said.
“I just don’t understand how that can even happen,” Collier said. “I got a call at 6:30 this morning. Mike Rupard, the county chief, was the first one who noticed that there were not any city commissioners on there. And Mike asked, ‘Where are the city commissioners?’ And they said they would have to call Eva (McDaniel) and wait and change the ballots out, and I thought, 'My gosh; I can’t believe that.'”
Collier said he is going to wait to see how the county clerk’s office is going to resolve the issues.
“If they call people to come back and actually let those people vote, I would be satisfied with that, as long as they get a chance to vote for the commission and whoever else wasn’t on the ballot, because it could be more than the commission that wasn’t on (the ballot).”
But ultimately, McDaniel asserted that if voters felt like they received the wrong ballot, they should have refused to vote and contacted her directly. She added that according to the opinions she received from the secretary of state and attorney general’s office, those who voted with the wrong ballot would not be allowed to vote again.
McDaniel also stated that it would be impossible to determine who received the wrong ballot from the rolls, and allowing residents in that area to vote again would open up a huge can of worms because there was no way of determining who received an incorrect ballot.