CC election officials scramble to fix error
Votes recorded in two of three voting machines in Charles City’s District III precinct were overlooked election night, meaning the county’s totals for that district and all county-wide races released to the media that night were incorrect.
The oversight prompted county election officials to work feverishly the next day to update totals, a process that took seven hours. Fortunately, winners in all races announced the night before did not change although victory margins either increased or shrank.
Catrinia Barneycastle, the county’s acting general registrar, said an officer of election at the District III precinct voting site reported results from only one machine. That precinct was first in the county to report, and the low numbers raised a few eyebrows in her office, she said.
“We kind of looked at it, but the red flags weren’t really raised until this morning,” Barneycastle said when contacted the day after the election.
Barneycastle said the unnamed election official correctly reported that 795 people had voted in the precinct. Vote totals in each race, however, numbered only about one-third of the voter figure. The next morning, the phone in her office began ringing off the hook.
“We were bombarded by phone calls from people wanting to know why the totals were different from Districts I and II,” she said.
Barneycastle blamed the hectic pace and “circus atmosphere” election workers encounter during Election Day as the reason why no one detected the error.
The county’s three-member Electoral Board worked from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. the day after the election to revise vote totals, the registrar said.
In the end, Javier Smith was still elected sheriff and by a wider margin than the 52-vote edge he held over Rayfield Squire the night before. Smith picked up 22 more votes than Squire in the revamped District III totals.
Smith, a 10-year veteran in the county sheriff’s office, won 812-738 over Squire, who was making his third straight unsuccessful bid for the post. Josie Jones, another deputy on the Charles City force, finished third with 427 while Van Pearce was a distant fourth at 256. Smith will replace retiring sheriff, B.A. Washington Sr.
The race for the second of two at-large seats on the county’s School Board tightened a bit, but Roy Campbell held off Steve Fuhrmann for the post. Fuhrmann picked up 30 votes in District III, but the figure was not enough to overcome an 84-vote deficit the night before.
Elvis Preston Adkins led in the School Board race with 1,063 votes. A frequent critic of the school system, he was the only candidate who did not actively campaign, except by word of mouth.
Campbell totaled 985 votes to Fuhrmann’s 931. In January, Adkins and Campbell will replace Pearce, who stepped down to run for sheriff, and Sylvia Christian who did not seek reelection.
Circuit court clerk Edith Holmes already held a sizeable margin from Tuesday night, and revised totals from District III had no impact. She easily turned back a challenge from Linda Jones-Wood 1,257-875. Holmes first won the post in a special election in 2005 in which she also defeated Jones-Wood.
In the only other contested countywide race, Norman Hofmeyer and Archer Ruffin won the county’s two director posts up for grabs in the Colonial Soil and Water Conservation District. Hofmeyer received 1,085 votes while Ruffin garnered 922. Frederick Fisher was third with 753.
The counting glitch in District III had no bearing on races in the county’s other two districts, including a history-making result in District II where political newcomer Sherri Bowman ousted three-term incumbent Michael Holmes to become the first woman elected to Charles City’s Board of Supervisors.
Bowman received 433 votes and held a comfortable 123-vote margin over Holmes’ 310 total.
Charles City’s voter turnout was higher than most localities with 2,289 or 46.8 percent of the county’s 4,893 registered voters trudging to the polls.