TUSCUMBIA — The mystery of the voteless precinct in Colbert County has apparently been solved.
Candidates in the Colbert County Commission, District 5 race — as well a election officials — were puzzled Tuesday night when the Leighton City Hall precinct failed to register any votes in the race.
Although a small precinct, Probate Judge Tommy Crosslin said he has never seen that occur in his 32 years in office and vowed Tuesday night to find out what happened. He said Wednesday the issue has been tracked down and it does not affect the outcome.
Incumbent Roger Creekmore led Republican challenger Tommy Oswalt by 64 votes — 1,793 to 1,729 — when votes were tabulated.
The issue revolves around the Town Hall precinct being used for voters in District 4 and District 5.
“(Crosslin) called and said the problem involved the wrong ballots being handed out,” Oswalt said. “Everyone was apparently given District 4
There are about 80 District 5 registered voters at the Town Hall precinct, which historically has been a Democratic stronghold. Oswalt said be was told 50 people who cast votes there in Tuesday’s election should have been given District 5 ballots.
Crosslin said only one provisional ballot for the District 5 race was filed at Town Hall. Had Oswalt been marked on that ballot and all 50 of the others, it would not have erased the 64-vote margin.
“We’ve gotten to the bottom of it and it’s not a show stopper,” said Crosslin, who declined to discuss his findings until both candidates had been contacted. “We contacted the Secretary of State’s office and told them what happened and how we planned to handle it. They told us we were handling it properly.”
Oswalt said he’s satisfied with the explanation given to him by Crosslin.
The problem does not affect the District 4 race because incumbent Emmitt Jimmar was unopposed.
Provisional ballots from the race will be counted Tuesday, and the election must be certified by Nov. 16. Afterward, the race could be contested.
Oswalt said he made a decision Tuesday night not to contest the election unless the race tightened up considerably after provisional ballots were counted.
“That’s just not me; I’m not one to contest a race,” said Oswalt, who unsuccessfully sought the District 2 race four years ago.
“The numbers don’t add up to make a difference, but what if it had?” he asked. “I was told by a friend that he was given the wrong ballot at Colbert Heights.
So, it has apparently happened elsewhere. It’s something that should be addressed and corrected.”
Creekmore said Wednesday morning he was confident he would be the winner after all the votes were counted. He said the Town Hall precinct provided his largest margin of victory, based on percentages, four years ago.
“But there’s something much bigger here than winning and losing an election,” Creekmore said. “It’s about doing the right thing and making sure that people know that when they vote, their vote will be counted accurately. They need to have confidence that will happen.
“I’m sure there was nothing sinister about this. I have no doubt that (Crosslin) will correct the problem.”
Mike Goens can be reached at 256-740-5740.