Official Finds No Tampering In Upshur County Primary
By PHILLIP WILLIAMS
GILMER -- Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd said Friday that despite allegations of "irregularities" in the local May 29 Republican primary election, he has found no tampering and is confident the vote count was accurate.
Controversy has surrounded the Upshur County GOP since the election, as a court petition was filed alleging voting irregularities in the primary; a deputy county clerk was fired; and officials at the state Republican convention seated a delegation from the county led by Cynthia Ridgeway, thus rejecting one headed by county Republican Chairman Ken Ambrose.
Although no candidate is yet attempting to overturn the election outcome, allegations have been raised that several people were denied the right to vote in their correct precinct because their voter registration cards were miscoded. The petition, filed by Ambrose, additionally said a broken computer seal left one of the early voting boxes unsecured.
Ambrose said Wednesday night he filed the petition Monday in 115th District Court at the request of Tim Barnett, who lost the GOP primary for Precinct 1 constable to Gene Dolle. Barnett has said he received calls from people who told him they tried to vote for him, but couldn't because their voter cards incorrectly showed they lived in Precinct 3 instead of Precinct 1.
Neither Ambrose nor Barnett has alleged any intentional wrongdoing in the election.
In another development, County Clerk Brandy Lee told the Tyler Paper on Friday she had fired a deputy clerk for failing to tell her about the problem with the seal on the voting box.
Mrs. Lee said two days after the primary, she received calls from a candidate and a poll watcher who "told me the seal was off the machine in the bottom of the bag when they opened it. So I asked the employee (the deputy clerk) if this was true and found out it was, and it had not been previously reported to me at all. So I had to let that person go" on June 1, because "it wasn't reported to me," Mrs. Lee said.
The female deputy had documented the broken seal in writing on election night, Mrs. Lee said. But, the county clerk added, the deputy said she hadn't notified Mrs. Lee of it verbally because she thought it appeared to have been "damaged from moving around" and "it didn't look like intentional human tampering."
"If I hadn't (fired the deputy), it would have looked like we all were trying to cover something up," Mrs. Lee said. "It was a good employee that made a bad decision, basically."
The county clerk said she notified Byrd, who contacted Hart InterCivic, the vendor for the county's election equipment. Hart sent an employee from Austin to compare the election results on a card, which is inserted into the voting machine, to results on the machine itself and they matched, Mrs. Lee said.
Byrd added, "We just find there was no tampering. We're confident at this point. ... The vote count was 100 percent accurate, and there's no further criminal investigation involved," Byrd said Friday.