An electronic recount of votes this morning from one Daphne district yielded no inconsistencies from the original election Aug. 23, despite one candidate’s ongoing concerns about the integrity of the process.
City Councilman John Lake, who ran against incumbent Mayor Dane Haygood, said he spent $3,636.50 for the recount of District 2 ballots after he said the voting machine there “broke down” early on election day, and he believed there were some irregularities both at the polling place and after the votes were tabulated.
Regardless, today’s recount confirmed Haygood had 527 votes in District 2 to Lake’s 315. Haygood won by a total of 377 votes citywide, or 53 percent. Challengers Timothy Swanson and Ben Cruitt each had less than 3 percent.
City Clerk Rebecca Hayes confirmed the voting machine in District 2 experienced a paper jam on election day, but said the problem was quickly corrected by a certified election employee with the county. Lake initially asked that the ballots be hand counted or electronically tabulated on another machine. Both requests were denied, but an attorney with the Secretary of State’s office, who attended the recount, did permit an informal “semi-hand count” of the ballots, allowing Lake to strike each vote on a sheet of paper himself.
“We came damn close to what they originally had,” he said, adding that he was surprised that the actual votes were not in line with his pre-election canvassing of the district. “We anticipated a much better turnout than what we had.”
Lake also said he was informed of an order signed by Municipal Judge Michael Hoyt the day after the election that allowed Hayes to unseal a box containing voting materials to remove “some voting materials accidentally left in said boxes.” Lake said one box was originally sealed with packing tape, but someone broke the seal and replaced it with duct tape.
Hayes said poll workers accidently sealed two voter lists in the box of election material, but ensured there were no ballots in the sealed box.
“When the poll workers finished at the Civic Center, they sealed and signed the boxes and brought them back to me, where we put them in the city vault which stayed locked,” she said.
The next day, when compiling certification documents for the Board of Registrars, Hayes said she noticed the two voter lists were missing and sought the court order. She opened the box, removed the lists and resealed the box.
“There was nothing improper done at the election or after,” she said. “The secretary of state’s office told [Lake] ‘if you find me somewhere that they criminally broke the law,’ but if you look in that code book, there’s nothing about what type of tape to use … you won’t find it.”
Lake also complained about a “mosh pit” of candidates and supporters at the entrance to the polls, requiring voters to run a “gauntlet” of last-minute campaigning to enter the Civic Center. Hayes acknowledged the situation might not have been welcoming, but said all campaigns were beyond the 30 feet from the door required by state law. As an assistant city clerk for 13 years before her present appointment three years ago, Hayes has presided over five elections in Daphne.
“We’ve had nothing but compliments from people about the election,” she said.
Lake, who has served six terms on the City Council ending in November, said he’s exhausted his options for this election, but will continue to monitor future polling.
“You don’t serve an area for 24 years with your heart and soul and then walk away from it.”