Ward 7 council race could hinge on court decision

The outcome of the race between Republicans Mark Graham and Doug Wilcox is unknown because ballots were issued to 109 voters not eligible to vote in the race.

Republican voters in Hopkinsville City Council’s Ward 7 won’t know for at least another week — if not longer — how election officials will resolve a flawed vote in the May 17 primary race between Doug Wilcox and Mark Graham. 

A hearing is scheduled for noon on June 1 before Christian Circuit Judge John Atkins, according to the court docket, to address a pair of legal petitions seeking a resolution on how to determine a winner.

Although Wilcox beat Graham by a single vote, 185-184, in unofficial results announced on election night, the outcome remains in limbo because an apparent software error resulted in 109 ballots being issued to voters who were not eligible to vote in Ward 7.

According to County Clerk Mike Kem’s office, the incorrect ballots were issued to Ward 8 voters.

In a petition filed Monday in Circuit Court, Kem said incorrect ballots were issued because of an error in software provided by Tenex, a state-approved vendor. The company provides electronic tablets with software that is intended to show poll workers “which ballot should be given to individual voters upon scanning their identification into the system.”

The petition, filed on Kem’s behalf by County Attorney John T. Soyars, states that Kem  “acknowledges that, if the court determines that ineligible ballots were cast, that a recount will not properly remedy the error.”

Kem told Hoptown Chronicle that a special meeting of the Christian County Board of Elections is slated for 10 a.m. Thursday at the courthouse to discuss pending litigation related to the Ward 7 primary. 

Graham, represented by attorney Ben Fletcher, previously filed a petition for a recount.

“The Court is requested to determine the best way to remedy the obviously flawed election,” Graham’s petition states. “This obviously requires the integrity of the ballots to be determined.”

Graham said he is willing to execute a bond to cover the cost of a recount. 

Wilcox issued a statement on Tuesday from the law offices of James Adams III.

“At this time, any call for an entire revote of the Ward 7 primary election is entirely premature. Under clear Kentucky law, a complete revote is the absolute last resort,” Wilcox said. 

“Before any further steps can proceed, we must determine whether the Ward 7 election outcome can be determined based on the eligible votes that were cast, or at a minimum, if the areas in question can be narrowed to a specific number and segment of eligible voters.”

The winner of the Ward 7 Republican primary will face Democrat William Coleman in the November general election. The current councilman, Terry Parker, did not seek re-election. 

Ward 7 council race could hinge on court decision

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.