PRESTONSBURG — A lawsuit was filed this week in Floyd Circuit Court by Martin Mayor Thomasine Robinson, asking for a recount of the recent city of Martin mayoral race.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed last Friday, Robinson is seeking an recount in the 2012 mayor’s race in which she lost to challenger Sam Howell by a margin of three votes. The initial margin was five votes, but a recanvass held last week, Robinson picked up two previously uncounted absentee ballots, which brought the total to 161 for Howell to 158 for Robinson.
In the legal complaint filed by Robinson’s attorney, Douglas McSwain, the petition states that there were several “irregularities” which occurred in Martin precincts, including improper assistance, improper coding of city voters, voting by persons not resident to the city of Martin, and a failure on the part of election officials to respond to voter challenges.
According to the complaint, “Upon information and belief, at least 19 persons (and probably more) who did not reside in Martin city limits were allowed to vote the city election at the Martin and/or John Possum precincts.”
With respect to challengers, the brief states that, “Challengers duly appointed by Robinson and present at the Martin and/or John Possum precincts challenged 11 voters or more to precinct officials as not eligible to vote in the Martin city election based on voters’s residency … none of the challenged voters or challengers was presented with or signed Form SBE 32. Furthermore, the challengers were not afforded a place to sign such form giving reason for challenge.”
Floyd County Clerk Chris Waugh says that this process is afforded to voters in close races.
“It was a close race, and perhaps through this venue, it will allow both sides to state any concerns they had concerning the election,” said Waugh. “The court will look at them and determine the outcome.”
Waugh was named in the lawsuit twice, both as Floyd County Clerk, and as president of the Board of Elections.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m neutral,” said Waugh. “It’s my job to be neutral.”
The complaint also states that “numerous onlookers” were seated in the voting room, which they allege resulted in confusion in the polling area.
In the complaint, Robinson says Howell used voter intimidation when he allegedly promised political favors to both a Martin city police officer and tenants of a federal housing project.
Officials with the state Attorney General’s office say Floyd county was relatively quiet with regard to voter complaints during this year’s election. According to Shelley Johnson, deputy communications director with Attorney General Jack Conway’s office, there were only five complaint calls issued from Floyd County.
Johnson said that three of those calls were procedural in nature, one complaint was with regard to a polling official, and there was one complaint of alleged vote buying or selling.
“Every complaint or call that is received through our election lines is reviewed thoroughly, and if any of the complaints appear to be criminal in nature, we forward those to appropriate investigative authorities,” said Johnson.
When asked if the Attorney General’s office was looking into the Martin city mayor’s race, Johnson stated, “it is the policy of the Attorney General’s office to neither confirm nor deny investigations.”
Thomasine Robinson had run unopposed in the previous two elections in the city of Martin. She was appointed Mayor in 1998 after then Mayor Allen Wicker stepped down. Robinson ran on her own in 2000 and won.
Robinson is seeking a a recount of the ballots placed in the 2012 Martin mayoral election, that the votes of four persons (of the 19 listed) who allegedly voted for Howell be judged improper and set aside and that Robinson be declared the winner, an adjudication that there has been no election, and a declaration that the office of mayor be vacated.
Along with Chris Waugh, the lawsuit names members of the Floyd County Board of Elections — Sheriff John K Blackburn, Raymond Michael Jarrell and Curtis Hall — as well as members of the Kentucky State Board of Elections, Attorney General Jack Conway and Executive Director of the State Board of Elections Maryellen Allen.