By Scott Robertson
Human error by an official at one voting precinct may have led to as many as 11 people voting in the wrong legislative district race today in Johnson City.
Election Commissioner John Ruetz told jcnews&neighbor.com this evening that around 4:30 this afternoon the election commission office received a call from the Henry Johnson precinct that there was a problem with one of the machines.
“(Fellow election commissioner) Leslie (Lacy) and I were called to Henry Johnson where they told us there was a problem with a machine. That was around 4:30. “(Election Administrator) Maybell (Stewart) told them to close the machine down, and that’s what they did. That’s standard operating procedure. So we went up there. We sealed it up in a numbered case and brought it back here (to the election commission office).”
“In this particular case,” said Ruetz, “there wasn’t anything wrong with the machine. The operator had made a mistake. Someone who was supposed to have voted in the sixth legislative district wound up voting in the seventh.”
The individual whose vote was affected met election commissioners back at the precinct and filled out a provisional ballot. The machine was taken back to the election commission office where Lacy began comparing the tape from the machine with voter registration records.
From that investigation, said Ruetz, it became apparent that the vote totals don’t reconcile exactly. “We’re off by just a small amount. We don’t know and can’t say with certainty, but we think there were 11 people who wound up voting in the wrong district from that precinct. We have a suspicion that 11 people wound up voting in the wrong district, but we only know for sure that one person voted in the wrong district.”
Ruetz said commissioners called Nashville for instruction, but were told there was nothing else to be done. “They talked it through and stuck with what they told us initially, which is there’s nothing we can do. Once the red button gets pushed, there’s nothing we can do.”
The election official who had allowed the voter/voters to vote in the wrong legislative district was sent home. “In this particular case,” said Ruetz, “the training was not followed.”