CLAY COUNTY — After multiple hours of recounting primary election votes Thursday, Aug. 6, preliminary ballot verification totals from Clay County’s Election Board show Jon Carpenter, not Cathy Rinehart, won the Democratic race for western district commissioner.
Initial uncertified results posted to the election board website after the Tuesday, Aug. 4 election showed Rinehart, the current county assessor, as victor with 73% of 10,599 votes cast to Carpenter’s nearly 27%, or 2,859 recorded votes.
The margin surprised Carpenter, who has a longstanding network of local support, especially in Gladstone and parts of Kansas City North thanks to his years of service as House representative in the state’s 15th district. Carpenter is term limited and currently serving his final House term.
“On Wednesday, I had a chance to go precinct by precinct and the numbers didn't add up," Carpenter said.
Unofficial verification totals from the recount sent to the Courier-Tribune around midnight Friday, Aug. 7 by the election board’s Republican Director Patty Lamb show a total of 11,293 votes were actually cast in the commissioner race, meaning 694 votes were not initially counted as part of a tabulation error that occurred when ballots were being counted earlier in the week. In addition, recount totals show Carpenter bested Rinehart by about a 10% margin, capturing roughly 55% of the votes cast, a total of 6,163 votes, to Rinehart’s 45% or 5,130 votes.
Democratic Director Tiffany Francis said an error with results was first discovered when she and Lamb started the verification process of votes the day after the election. They noticed in some races candidates, like Carpenter, received zero votes in some precincts.
The issue, according to election directors, was a programming error on the tabulators that affected some Democratic candidates, especially eastern and western commissioner and sheriff. As neither Democratic candidate for sheriff or eastern commissioner ran opposed, both still move on to the general election.
The cause of the tabulation error is still under review.
The machines are tested two weeks prior to each election and Lamb said machines used for the primary passed muster. Lamb also reached out to the Missouri Secretary of State's Office to make sure the recount didn't require a court order. As the votes still required verification, the recount is legal, she said.
"This is rare, but we are going to take a good, hard look," she said.
While a typical verification consists of a 5% recount, Francis said Thursday afternoon that because of the error, 100% of the precincts were being recounted by machine. The recount was of 44,784 ballots.
“And if we have to do a hand recount, we will do that, too,” she said.
Both Carpenter and Rinehart watched the recount. As she kept an eye on the election judges and the employees of Adkins, the vendor responsible for the programming of the voting machines, Rinehart said the tabulation mishap puts the election process at risk.
"I feel like this issue has jeopardized the integrity of the election process,” she said.
Lamb called the whole experience frustrating.
"It's not something we could control," she said. "Adkins is still looking into everything. We are going to explore with them what we could have done."
Official verification results are expected to be published Friday afternoon on the election board website.