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June 13, 2017 10:28:02 AM
The certified results from Starkville's June 6 election show Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver won a third term by 19 votes, but the total votes from Ward 1's race were drastically reduced after an erroneous report.
Starkville election commissioners canvassed Ward 1's election machine tapes Friday after the city received questions about the high number of votes cast in that race.
The city first reported 692 ballots were counted on election day, and an affidavit processed the following day gave Carver a five-vote lead.
The certified results lowered the total of ballots received from 693 to 535 and gave Carver a 277-258 victory over Christine Williams.
The cause of the error was not clear as of press time, and similar issues were not found in the city's other contested wards.
Emails between City Clerk Lesa Hardin and aldermen state all three Starkville Election Commissioners present Friday voted to canvass the machine tapes for accuracy before the city submitted its certified results to the Mississippi Secretary of State's office.
Williams was present at the meeting -- she confirmed to The Dispatch this weekend that she alerted the city to an apparent scrivener's error -- but Carver was out of town.
Two attempts were made by the city to contact Carver -- Williams said she text messaged his wife about the issue -- and officials eventually spoke to Oktibbeha County Republican Party chair Marnita Henderson about the issue.
State law gives election commissioners 10 days to "canvass returns, ascertain and declare the result" of an election.
"This was not a ballot box examination by candidate Williams, nor did she touch or look at anything in the box. A copy of the three machine tapes totals were made and given to Ms. Williams, emailed to Alderman Carver and provided to Ms. Henderson. There was never an attempt to recount or examine the entire box, simply to verify the machine totals from the three machine tapes printed from the voting machines," Hardin wrote in her email to aldermen. "The Election Commissioners have the authority to canvass the accuracy of the results prior to certifying the final report to the Secretary of State and they voted to do that."
Carver, who briefly contacted The Dispatch Monday, took issue with the lack of notice for Friday's meeting.
Election law cited in Hardin's email does not specifically call for the election committee to publicly notice its meeting.
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