Vote

UPDATED 7:20 a.m. June 10

With absentee ballots still out, local Jackson County incumbents were leading the ticket with in-person results from the June 9 elections.

Around 6,483 votes had been counted and compiled by midnight, all from those who voted early in-person and from in-person election day voting. A larger number of absentee ballots — 8,000 to 9,000 — had not yet been compiled as of press time Wednesday morning.

The closest race so far in Jackson County is for the open seat of Jackson County State Court Solicitor where  Jim David led Gabriel Bradford 2,906-2,886 (50.1%-49.4%)

Other results:

• Incumbent Sheriff Janis Mangum was leading challenger Johnny Wood 5,702-688 (89%-11%).

• Incumbent tax commissioner Candace Taylor Heaton was leading challenger Wesely Colley 4,162-2,054 (67%-33%).

• Incumbent coroner Keith Whitfield was leading challenger Shannon Stephens 5,011-1,122 (82%-18%).

• Incumbent District 2 county commissioner Chas Hardy was leading challenger Thomas Rainey 1,031-274 (79%-21%).

• In the open seat for Post 1 on the Jackson County Board of Education, Rick Sanders led a pack of four candidates with 503 votes (49.9%) followed by Rob Johnson with 317 votes (31%). Mark Kuczka and Blake Rodenroth had 92 and 96 votes respectively, 9% each. There will be a runoff in that race in July if no candidate gets over 50% of the vote.

• The homestead exemption issue was also passing in all three school districts as was the sale of alcohol by the drink on Sunday in the City of Commerce.

Voting mostly smooth across county

Unlike some areas of the state, voting across Jackson County appeared to be mostly smooth Tuesday as people lined up to cast ballots. No excessively long lines or technical issues hampered voting.

Because of the COVID virus, state and local elections officials promoted absentee balloting this year. Because of that, more people voted absentee in the county than voted in-person, the only time that has ever happened.

But the large number of absentee ballots also created headaches for local elections officials.

On Tuesday afternoon, Jackson County elections director Jennifer Logan took call after call from the county's four voting precincts where officials had voters show up with an absentee ballot, but wanting to vote on the state's new voting machines instead. Those absentee ballots had to be vetted and canceled out by Logan, who had to confirm the status of each one to make sure someone wasn't voting twice. The process took time and slowed down some voting.

Meanwhile at the county elections office, about nine people sat around a long table, opening absentee envelopes and organizing those ballots to be counted scanned in another room.

At a nearby table, another group of poll workers checked the paper ballots for problems — tears, over-voting (more than one vote in a race), and other technical problems. In some cases, "bad" ballots had to be recreated by a special group of three poll workers so they could be processed and scanned.

A bigger issue, however, was that the county was allotted only one scanning machine for the absentee ballots. Processed in small batches, the actual scanning of the absentee ballots took a lot of time. Sometimes, a ballot with a technical problem slipped through the system, causing the scanning machine to stop until the problem was fixed — that batch of ballots then had to be re-scanned.

The issue of when to begin opening absentee ballots and who should be involved in that process was a point of contention during a Zoom meeting of the Jackson County Board of Elections last week. Despite that, all five members of the elections board were on hand Tuesday as volunteers to help with the processing of absentee ballots.

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