Doddridge County might have to run a do over on its school board election.
That’s because of an error on voting instructions for people who voted early. The error was caught and corrected before Election Day.
But by the mistake could have affected 250 people who voted early. And that could have changed who won.
Three seats are open on the board. The final results, so far, showed that incumbent board member Chad Evans received 755 votes, incumbent board President Denver Burnside received 729, incumbent Laura Cottrill received 723, and candidate Bonnie Davis received 628.
So the spread between the first place finisher and the fourth place finisher is just 127 votes.
The problem is that Evans and Davis live in the same district, known as Beech. And the mistake was that the initial instructions told people to only vote for one candidate from each district. Actually, up to two candidates from each district are eligible to serve at any one time.
“I thought somewhere along the line that every district should have to be represented, so they proved me wrong,” said Catee Slater, the Doddridge county clerk. “It was a mistake and I own it.”
As soon as the error was drawn to Slater’s attention she acknowledged it and made sure machines at precincts were correct on Election Day.
But those 250 early voters, if they had received the correct instructions, might have made different ballot choices.
The Doddridge County Commission is set for a 10 a.m. Monday special meeting in West Union to decide what to do. The agenda openly describes the situation as an error on ballots for the board of education election.
One of the options could be to carry out a special election, which would be an unanticipated expense but could resolve the problem somewhat soon. Another resolution could be running the school board race again during the General Election in November.
Davis, a 67-year-old retired school system employee, finished the first vote narrowly on the outside looking in. She filed a formal complaint.
“The ballot was wrong, to make a long story short,” she said in a telephone interview.
Davis said she isn’t upset but would just like the election circumstances to be correct.
“It was such a small margin. Percentage-wise, we all had 20-some percent on the ballot. Percentage-wise, it was so small that it definitely could have changed the outcome of the election,” she said.
“Whether I win or lose if it’s revoted, that’s OK but at least it will be a valid ballot that he citizens of Doddridge County voted on. They have that right to do that.”
Davis worked for the local school system for 34 years, starting as a cook. She then got a degree that led to work as a paraprofessional in kindergarten and special education classrooms. After she retired, some supporters suggested she run for the board. “I know the system pretty much inside and out. I had some ideas I wanted to suggest and have done,” she said.
Doddridge County’s school system has been fairly well off, in large part because of the active natural gas industry producing property taxes. That has resulted in money to spend on new schools and athletic facilities. Evans noted that when people are considering moving to a new community one of the first factors they examine is the school system.
“The board of education is a small thing,” Davis said, “but it’s a big thing to Doddridge County.”