Breckenridge Texan

Stephens County Commissioners canvass votes, certify election results

Stephens County Commissioners canvass votes, certify election results
November 14
10:33 2020

By Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan

Following a tumultuous Sheriff’s race leading up to last week’s General Election, there was little fanfare as Stephens County Commissioners met for just over five minutes to canvass the official results and certifying the election in a meeting on Thursday afternoon, Nov. 12.

During the meeting, Stephens County Tax Assessor Christie Latham, who also serves as the county’s election administrator, presented commissioners with a report of the election results to review and approve. She told commissioners her office received one qualified mail-in ballot the day after Election Day. She said since the ballot was qualified, the votes on that voter’s ballot were added to the county’s total tally, increasing by one vote each for each of the candidates that person voted for.

Smooth election process

Latham said she was pleased with the way the election ran. She said it was a smooth experience on election night with a record number of votes. They also completed the accounting and reporting of the results in record time, she said.

“We’ve got it canvassed and recorded, and we just lack a few Secretary of State reports to finish up this election,” Latham said.

Latham attributed much of the smoothness and speed of getting the results counted during the election to the new voting machines the county purchased earlier this year.

She said the new machines worked great and they only had one small issue with them, which was getting scanners on the ballot readers to read mail-in ballots that had a crease where they were folded to fit in the envelopes.

“The physical creases where they were folded present a problem,” she said. “You have to try to iron out those creases to get it work, to work with it. So we spent a little more time than I had hoped dealing with that.”

She said it was her understanding that that problem was a universal problem with the machine, not just with Stephens County, and she hopes the manufacturer will work on some kind of solution for that before they have the next big election. “But that was minor in the scheme of things, and I’m very pleased how everything ran and how it turned out,” she said.

Abstaining from canvasing votes

Although he attended the meeting, Stephens County Judge Michael Roach abstained from voting on the canvassing of the election results. He said although he wasn’t legally required to abstain from the vote, he wanted to avoid any type of controversy since his brother Kevin Roach was elected Stephens County Sheriff during the election.

“Certainly there was not anything unlawful or any conflict of interest by (me) canvassing the votes,” Roach said.  “I could canvass the votes for my own election. Christie Latham ran the election with her name on the ballot. So, canvassing the election, it doesn’t apply to all those nepotism complaints that have been filed and alleged up to this point.”

Roach was referring to numerous allegations that were made against Kevin Roach by his sheriff’s race opponent Kathy Marcom and her husband and campaign treasurer, Jay Marcom. The allegations included questions about nepotism, as well as other claims, and even the filing of a request for a Texas Attorney General’s Office legal opinion by Stephens County Judge Gary Trammel.

However, an investigation by the Breckenridge Texan, which included reviews of hundreds of legal documents, interviews with legal experts and elected officials, revealed no apparent conflict of interest or nepotism issues that would prevent two brothers from both being elected officials– one as county judge and one as sheriff — in the same county.

Although the AG’s office has not yet ruled on the legal opinion request yet, the legal experts and government officials the Breckenridge Texan contacted do not expect the AG’s office find any issues with the two brothers serving at the same time in two different offices. The Texan found that it has been done many times in Texas for decades and is currently being done in Texas in places like Bexer County. To read the complete Breckenridge Texan story on the investigation, click here.

However, Roach said attorneys with the general counsel for the Texas Association of County Judges and County Commissioners told him if he wanted to totally get beyond even the appearance of impropriety, they would recommend, given the circumstances, that he abstain from the canvassing. However, he said they told him it was certainly within his rights as county judge to canvass the votes if he wanted to.

“And so, for this first time, given all of the allegations that have been out there, and the negativity and mudslinging that that’s unfortunate when the local race, I did not want to (canvass the votes),” the County Judge said. “I did not want to give anybody the opportunity to use something that’s totally legal to make it seem like something inappropriate was happening. So that’s why I abstained, because I wanted to put myself so far outside of that realm where people could sling mud. (It’s) not just for me; this kind of behavior is what I would call close to harassment of government officials across the board.

“If I could do a little bit of an ounce of prevention, I don’t want to have to spend a pound of cure,” he continued. “And so that’s my approach. However, I’ll guarantee you moving forward, that will be my last time to do that.”

 

Stephens County Commissioners Will Warren and Eric O’Dell review election results on Thursday during a meeting to canvass votes and certify the 2020 General Election. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Cutline, top photo: Stephens County Tax Assessor Christie Latham, who also serves as the county’s election administrator, reviews the results of the 2020 General Election with county commissioners during a meeting on Thursday to canvass the votes and certify the election. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

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