ELKHART, Ind. — More questions are being raised after the Elkhart County Election Board invalidated nearly half of the votes received by a conservative candidate for the Concord School Board. One main concern is that the candidate was never formally contacted by anyone on the Election Board and was given only two-and-a-half hours to attempt to obtain legal counsel to object to the last minute change; an impossible task.
“I didn’t know there had been a change until I went to the emergency election board meeting on November 28th.” Stacy McDowell, who had initially won the race, said. “I had until noon on the 28th to challenge the new result. The meeting didn’t end until 9:30am.”
McDowell said she was never personally notified of the meeting either. Instead, she heard about it from a neighbor who had seen something about an emergency meeting in local news reports and decided to attend.
“To this day, I still have not been formally contacted by anyone.” McDowell said.
At the end of election night, vote totals showed Stacy McDowell with 1,894 votes. The commission decided to throw out a total of 1,199 votes in the race, 844 of them had gone to McDowell, bringing her vote total down to 1,050.
The vote total change was so drastic, Mike Malooley was named the new winner, even though McDowell had initially beat him by more than 550 votes.
Malooley’s initial vote total was 1,322 votes. The Election Board tossed 217 from his total, bringing his final vote tally to 1,105 — meaning there was an 899 vote swing to make him the winner with a 55 vote lead over McDowell.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Election Board is blaming the issue on what members are calling “overvotes” and wording issues on the ballot. Voters were allowed to vote for a total of three school board candidates in the election — with a mix of candidates from District 1 and 2. However, voters could only select one candidate from District 2. McDowell was running in District 2. Malooley was running in District 1.
However, the wording on the ballot, the layout of the ballot and the voting machines themselves did not make anything clear. As you can see below, the instructions on the ballot say “Vote for not more than three (3),” below that notification it states, “Not more than one (1) candidate may be elected from District 2.”
The ballot then contains candidates from both districts and physically allows voters to select more than one candidate from District 2. This is despite the machine still restricting the total vote selection to three candidates total. Anyone who voted for two or more District 2 candidates had their vote tossed from the total.
According to state law, the election had to be certified by the afternoon of November 28th, the same day of the election board special meeting, meaning the Election Board waited until the last minute to publicly make changes to the results.
McDowell says she is currently in the fact gathering and planning stages to see what steps she can take to object to the last minute result changes.
“I believe there was a targeted effort to make sure I didn’t take the seat.” McDowell said. “My end goal would be to get all of the information I need to pursue litigation to get my seat back.”
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