Commission race might not end when provisional ballots are counted

Angie Mayes • Aug 7, 2018 at 3:03 PM

Two provisional ballots may or may not determine a winner in the Wilson County commissioner District 1 race, but it won’t have any impact on the District 6 race when the Wilson County Election Commission opens and verifies the provisional ballots Wednesday morning, according to Philip Warren, administrator of elections.

‘The people could have only voted for governor,” he said. “Voters do not have to cast ballots in every race during an election.”

Robert Fields and Tim Roehler each received 526 votes in the District 1 race. If the votes are not cast in the race, do not count or each vote goes to each candidate in the District 1 race, then the issue may be up to the Wilson County Commission to decide who will become the next commissioner in that district. 

In the District 6 race, there was also a tie, with Kevin Graves and Kenny Reich each receiving 571 votes. There are no provisional ballots in that race.

If the commission chooses not to cast a vote in either or both of the races to determine the winner, the task will then be given to the people in a special runoff that will appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, Warren said.

A provisional ballot is one in which the voter information was not received by the Election Commission, Warren said. 

“Someone might not have gotten the form to us in time,” he said. “Or they weren’t eligible to vote for other reasons. There are a lot of possibilities. We will determine whether the provisional ballots are eligible to be counted.”

Warren said it’s done by comparing the voter information with the election rolls to see if the person was registered in time. There are other matters such as not providing a photo identification at the time of voting, which would be checked, as well.

Voters have up to 30 days prior to an election to register to vote. Photo identification is required to vote across Tennessee.

The District 1 race has become a hot topic since last weekend when Fields made racially charged comments about the race of Roehler’s wife and children on Facebook. 
On Friday, Fields said Roehler “kept quiet” he was in an interracial marriage and had two interracial children in a Facebook post. The post was made after it was revealed Fields and Roehler tied with 526 votes apiece in last Thursday’s Wilson County General Election. 

When questioned by The Democrat on Sunday, Fields initially said he planned to concede the election Monday, but he changed his mind Sunday evening and since then was unavailable for comment. According to the secretary of state’s office, a candidate can’t concede an election until it’s certified. 

“Regardless of whether a person concedes prior to provisional ballots being counted, on our end, we still count the votes and certify the winner or a tie,” said Madison Tracy with the secretary of state’s office. “At that point, it is out of our control. In the case of a tie, the county commission can break the tie or call for a runoff.”

The Lebanon Democrat polled commissioners, including incumbent, incoming and outgoing members, and nine commissioners came to Roehler’s defense and said they don’t believe the comments were necessary.

Sixteen failed to return calls about the matter. Six said they did not know enough about the matter, and one had no comment.

The Wilson County Election Commission will certify the election results of the other races in the Wilson County General Election on Aug. 20, Warren said.

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