Former sheriff will drop recount case, claims hundreds of ballots missing
By: Darrell Todd Maurina
Posted: Saturday, March 20, 2010 9:35 pm
PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (March 20, 2010) — Former Pulaski County Sheriff J.T. Roberts says he plans to drop his court action against County Clerk Diana Linnenbringer and current Sheriff J.B. King accusing the county of election improprieties, but he’s claiming to area media that hundreds of absentee ballots are missing or weren’t counted and also says he still hasn’t received all the documents he requested from the county.
In a prepared statement released late Friday night, Linnenbringer didn’t respond directly to Roberts’ claims to KJPW/KFBD radio that 461 absentee ballots are missing and about 260 absentee ballots weren’t counted, as well as claims that none of the election judges were sworn in and bags of ballots were opened and not sealed.
However, Linnenbringer said she will “stand by the election result.”
Roberts wasn’t available on Saturday to clarify his comments to KJPW/KFBD radio or respond to Linnenbringer’s statement.
Roberts, who held the sheriff’s office for 12 years until he was defeated by the current sheriff in the 2004 election, is challenging both the narrow margin of his second loss in the Nov. 4, 2008 general election and the way in which the election was conducted. Roberts filed court papers seeking not only a hand-done recount of the race that he lost, but also an entirely new election that would set aside the results of the Nov. 4 race.
The case had been scheduled for court action since early January of 2009 but repeatedly postponed. It’s been assigned to Judge William R. Haas, a senior judge from outside the area who was appointed by the Missouri Supreme Court to hear the case after all local judges decided they couldn’t hear the case due to conflicts of interest.
In her prepared statement, Linnenbringer acknowledged that the sheriff’s race “was decided by a very thin margin.”
Not noted in Linnenbringer’s statement was the actual margin of 38 votes out of 12,884 cast — a margin which, if Roberts’ claims of 461 missing absentee ballots and about 260 absentee ballots not counted are correct, could easily have been changed by the missing or uncounted ballots.
Linnenbringer did note that of the more than 15,000 ballots cast in the November 2008 general election, more than 3,500 of those ballots were cast by absentee methods.
“Considering that our county hosts Fort Leonard Wood, we have a far greater mobile contingent than most other Missouri counties, resulting in a high number of absentees. A large number of those are handled by mail. Obviously, the ballot is mailed to the voter at a distant place and normally it is returned to us to be counted on election night,” Linnenbringer said.
Linnenbringer’s prepared statement also included praise for her eight election officials, four Republicans and four Democrats who, by state law, are authorized by their respective political parties to assist the full-time election clerks on a bipartisan basis to, as Linnenbringer phrased it, “ensure that fairness, integrity and equitability is adhered to in the counting process.”
“These are very reputable people,” Linnenbringer said. “These eight election judges handle all of the absentee ballots. I have complete confidence in these people, as well as the staff of the Pulaski County Clerk’s office.”
Linnenbringer said she understands that the details of administering an election are “only noticed when a close result happens.”
“Understandably, any candidate who has lost a close election is unhappy. They have put a lot of work, time and effort into their campaign,” Linnenbringer said. “Scrutiny of the process is a positive thing. It ensures that elections are conducted fairly and equitably. When an issue or candidate contest is overwhelmingly in favor of a particular candidate, there is usually very little heard about it. However, a close result usually gets a closer look.”