Mistake leads to uncertainty on election night

Published 8:33 am Wednesday, May 27, 2020

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Last Tuesday’s election night came with an extra helping of drama for two candidates running for the Victoria Town Council.

The initial numbers showed incumbent Ronald Mattox had finished in second place with 144 votes and challenger Jeramiah Fix was in fourth place. It was not an unexpected result as all the incumbents had been returned to office by the voters.

But then things got weird. The state board of elections website, where the results were displayed, suddenly changed, dropping 60 votes from Mattox, which put him in fourth place, moving Fix to third.

Mattox had heard from a fellow incumbent that he had won. He loaded up some campaign signs at the polling place, came home and received a screenshot of the numbers that showed him with 60 votes less than he had before and the fourth candidate in a race for three spots on the town council.

“I was a little surprised and trying to figure what had happened,” he said.

Mattox had already told his two sons and a sister-in-law that he had won. He called them back later to tell them that maybe he had not won after all.

At the same time, Fix was going through the same situation and trying to figure out if he was the on the council or off.

“It wasn’t a realistic number it changed to the second time,” Fix said. “It was only showing one candidate (Mattox) getting six votes at the polls, so I knew that probably wasn’t correct, but after clarification, they (elections officials) said it was correct. It was still kind of hard to filter and then within 15 or 20 minutes they said they were not correct. They were correct the first time.”

Mattox’s daughter-in-law went to the website and saw the breakdown showing Mattox had only received six votes all day at the People’s Community Center. Four members of his family had voted for him there that day. Mattox counted at least 11 or 12 who should have voted for him at the polling place.

“We were figuring out what we needed to do and while we were discussing that, my daughter-in-law was still on the computer then I heard her tell my son it changed back to 144 votes again,” he said.

Fix said he isn’t sure how the mistake happened, but was surprised an election with such a small number of votes had a problem like that.

“It kind of shocked me,” he said. “It’s only like 187 votes in one precinct. You wouldn’t think it would be that difficult.”

After seeing the results back to the original numbers, Mattox made another round of phone calls.

“I had to call everybody up and say, ‘yeah, it looks like I won again,’” he said.

The election day loss was not the worst pain Fix suffered in that 24-hour period. He spent part of the night before the election in the emergency room after tearing a bicep while pulling up a large campaign sign. He had surgery this week.

Fix said he plans to run for city council again in two years.

Lunenburg County Registrar Carolyn Parsons stressed that election night results are unofficial.

She said she isn’t sure what happened and where the problem occurred.

“The precinct calls it in and we write it down. I don’t know where the mistake was made,” Parsons said. “It was a terrible mistake. I don’t know what else to say, but mistakes do happen.”