Though not official when “headlined” in the Nov. 7 edition, the winners of the 2019 Town of Highlands municipal election stand.
During the canvass which was completed Friday, Nov. 15, provisional ballots increased by two – from the original four to six – but three were thrown out. There was one absentee ballot.
Following the canvass which according to MC Board of Elections Director Melanie Thibault was completed at 11 a.m., a recount of the Highlands race began and was completed that afternoon.
According to Thibault after each election, the state board picks a precinct to be recounted. This year it could have been one of the two One-Stop voting places, the town of Franklin or the town of Highlands.
This year, the Franklin One-stop voting tally was recounted.
However, because of questions that arose out of the Town of Highlands election, Highlands was also recounted on canvass day.
This happened for two reasons. Some people thought the ballot posted at the Highlands precinct showing the number of votes for each candidate when the polls closed, was the final vote. It wasn’t.
As people were proclaiming winners based on the ballot posted at the Highlands precinct, the Board of Elections was posting the Early Voting numbers on its website.
Though according to Chief Judge of the Highlands Voting Precinct, Jody Zoellner posting the Early Voting results first is not unsual, it further confused the issue already brewing in Highlands because those numbers didn’t match the Highlands precinct posting.
Obviously, the Board of Elections’ initial posting wasn’t complete because the Highlands precinct numbers had not been included.
However, by 9 p.m. the correct count was posted on the Board of Elections website, ending the confusion.
Zoellner, who has worked the polls for 15 years, said posting the Highlands precinct tally has been done for years, and it has never represented the final count.
However, she said due to the confusion this year, posting Highlands precinct totals prior to the final count from the Board of Elections, will not happen again.
So, in the end, the total for all candidates except McCall and Rogers increased after the canvass.
Brian Stiehler got 185 votes; Marc Hehn, 136; John Dotson, 135; Eric Pierson, 132; Hank Ross, 127; Nick McCall retained his 85 as did Michael David Rogers at 58.
On another note, Thibault and Zoellner reiterated the importance of people updating their voter registration so the rolls are accurate when it comes time to vote.
According to Thibault, the Board of Elections does not and cannot act as a private investigator and the only way the rolls can be kept up to date is if voters notify the board and change their address.
She and Zoellner said because they both know the makeup of their precincts they sometimes know if someone on the rolls is no longer eligible to vote within the parameters of certain elections.
When that’s the case, a letter is sent to the voter asking them to update their residency status on the rolls. But generally, the responsibility is the voter’s.
According to Zoellner, residency is “where you sleep at night” and that determines whether a voter can vote in a particular election. Illegally voting is a Class I Felony.
Of course by 2020, a photo voter ID will be required which may help clean up the rolls but there are “sometimes computer glitches,” said Zoellner.
– Kim Lewicki, Highlands Newspaper