Ford picks up 1 vote in sheriff's race as primary results certified, no word on recount

Gary B. Gray • May 22, 2014 at 9:11 PM

The Washington County Election Commission on Thursday certified the May 6 Republican primary results after crediting Craig Ford with one provisional vote, leaving him 12 votes short of incumbent Sheriff Ed Graybeal.

A provisional ballot is provided to a voter whose eligibility is not immediately established on election day, and it still remains unclear whether Ford, the town of Jonesborough operations manager, plans to contest the race.

Administrator of Elections, Maybell Stewart, said two provisional ballots were cast, but only one was valid. That vote narrowed the gap from 13 to 12, with Graybeal receiving 6,377 votes to Ford’s 6,365.

Election Commissioners thumbed through the final results in a Jonesborough courthouse second-floor poll-worker training room, while Graybeal, several county commissioners, officials and media members looked on. After a few very quiet and pensive minutes, each member voted in the affirmative to certify the results and signed their names to copies which will be sent to the Tennessee Election Commission.

Graybeal, who would go unopposed in the August general election, said later that he and Ford had not maintained a dialogue of any kind since well before the election.

“I don’t have a clue on what he plans to do,” he said. “I’ve not communicated with him since the (April 1) forum, and that was not really one-on-one, it was addressing questions asked of us.”

Ford was not in his office when the Johnson City Press came knocking after the Election Commission had finished its business.

“He said he was doing town business and didn’t want to talk about the issue at this time,” Virginia Causey, an executive secretary read from a yellow Post-it note following a request to speak to Ford. “He did communicate that he had not decided whether to contest the election and said he would be issuing a press release.”

The total number of overall votes cast -- 13,099 -- did not change, and all tallies were “checked, double-checked and triple-checked,” according to Stewart.

Meanwhile, the controversial miscue on election night that temporarily switched the names of the County Commission’s 6th District eventual top vote-getter Tom Foster with incumbent Mark Ferguson was not mentioned during the meeting.

An error by a MicroVote technician resulted in confusion and frustration when Foster was credited with Ferguson’s numbers on the Election Commission’s website, and visa versa. MicroVote’s president and the technician responsible both apologized a few days after the election.

“The results will now be sent to the Tennessee Election Commission, and a copy also will be sent to the county clerk,” Stewart said. “Everything balanced. We scanned the voter registration books, which have a bar code beside each name. This will verify who voted and will be used to update our records. I think the Election Commission did a fine job -- they performed well. And as far as MicroVote’s mistake -- I don’t distrust them. It was just a mistake.”

The certification makes it official: Foster, newcomer Tom Krieger and incumbent Joe Grandy topped the 6th District field and move on to the Aug. 7 county general election. Ferguson and incumbent Gearld Sparks will end their terms Aug. 31.

“I’d like to thank you all for coming,” Election Commission Chairwoman Janet Willis told county officials and media members. “It’s a serious business. We do our very best, and being a commissioner is very important.”

Like Gary B. Gray on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Gary-B-Gray. Follow him on Twitter @ggrayjcpress.

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