Ward 7 council decision between Mark Graham and Doug Wilcox awaits another court hearing

Judge John Atkins indicated the eventual decision leans toward Wilcox but more time is needed to address questions from Graham's attorney.

The Ward 7 Hopkinsville City Council race between Republicans Mark Graham and Doug Wilcox wasn’t settled at a Christian Circuit Court hearing Tuesday. However, Judge John Atkins indicated that the eventual decision appears to lean toward Wilcox.

Atkins said he believes the case can be resolved by agreement between the candidates after questions raised by Ben Fletcher, who represents Graham, are answered. That could happen at the next court hearing, slated for noon on Tuesday, June 14.

According to unofficial results released the evening of the May 17 primary, Wilcox won the race by one vote (185 to 184). But that total includes 109 ballots cast in precinct G104 by voters who reside in Ward 8 and therefore were not eligible to vote in the Ward 7 race between Wilcox and Graham. 

County Clerk Mike Kem has said that a software error by Tenex — the company that provides hardware and software to run local elections — resulted in some Ward 8 voters incorrectly receiving Ward 7 ballots.  

Ward 7 is comprised of a portion of G104 and all of two other precincts — E104 and G101. The 109 ineligible ballots are believed to be entirely from precinct G104. 

Fletcher wants to question a representative of Tenex. Atkins said that could be done by a virtual appearance at the next hearing. 

Attorney Ben Fletcher (right) sits with his client, Ward 7 city council candidate Mark Graham, during a hearing June 7, 2022, in Christian Circuit Court. (Photo by Jennifer P. Brown)

In addition, Fletcher requested that Kem’s office check the home addresses of every voter who cast a Ward 7 city council ballot in precincts E104 and G101 to verify that no ineligible ballots were cast.

“It seems to me like it would be pretty easy to determine, if there are any ineligible votes in those two precincts. And that’s all we’re asking,” Fletcher said. 

Assuming the information can be gathered by the next hearing and that no additional ineligible votes are discovered, and that a Tenex representative is available to testify that day, it appears unlikely that a recount of the ballots or a revote of the Ward 7 primary will be sought. 

James Adams III, who represents Wilcox, previously filed a motion to dismiss Graham’s petition for a recount. 

Attorney James Adams III (standing), who represents Ward 7 city council candidate Doug Wilcox, questions Christian County Clerk Mike Kem during a hearing Tuesday, June 7, in Christian Circuit Court. (Photo by Jennifer P. Brown)

In his motion, Adams noted the following vote totals, including the 109 ineligible ballots, from May 17:

  • Precinct E104 — Graham, 53; Wilcox, 32
  • Precinct G101 — Graham, 33; Wilcox, 106
  • Precinct G104 — Graham, 98; Wilcox, 47

Subtracting 109 ineligible votes from the 145 total votes in G104 leaves 36 eligible votes. 

“After those 109 votes are discarded and assuming that all remaining 36 votes in G104 were cast in Mr. Graham’s favor, Mr. Wilcox still would have won the election by 16 votes,” the motion states. “In this instance, it is shown that Mr. Graham actually benefitted from the 109 ineligible votes cast and, therefore, there is no basis for this Court to interfere with the will of the eligible voters …”

At Tuesday’s hearing, Atkins said. “I will say, Mr. Adams, that I have to acknowledge that you have the better of this and your papers to this point have been extremely persuasive. And I certainly can’t fault you on your analysis, but in the interest of fair play and comity I think it’s incumbent upon me to see if we can’t resolve this case by agreement rather than in an adversarial manner.” 

He added, “Mr. Fletcher has very candidly acknowledged that if the answers that come forward are satisfactory then he more or less agrees that your calculations are correct,” Atkins said.

Fletcher confirmed the judge’s assessment of his position.

Ward 7 council decision between Mark Graham and Doug Wilcox awaits another court hearing

Jennifer P. Brown | Hoptown Chronicle

Jennifer P. Brown is co-founder, publisher and editor of Hoptown Chronicle. You can reach her at editor@hoptownchronicle.org. She spent 30 years as a reporter and editor at the Kentucky New Era. She is a co-chair of the national advisory board to the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, governing board president for the Kentucky Historical Society, and co-founder of the Kentucky Open Government Coalition.