The Pike County Election Commission has asked the sheriff’s department to look into an incident Aug. 6, where a Republican party official and pollwatcher challenged the right of a Democratic candidate to cast a ballot in the primary election.
“We have opened an investigation,” chief deputy Johnny Scott confirmed Thursday.
Scott said the commission did not file charges but did request an investigation. He said he will assign an investigator to the case.
On Aug. 6, Pike County Republican Party Chairman Bobby McDaniel, who was serving as a poll watcher at the Progress Fire Department voting precinct, challenged Renada Cain when she got ready to vote.
McDaniel claimed Cain, then a Democratic candidate for county tax assessor, actually lives in Lincoln County and falsified her voter registration form. Cain lost the primary and is no longer a candidate.
Election commission chairperson Trudy Berger said Thursday she asked the sheriff’s office to investigate two possible violations: voter intimidation and disturbance in a precinct.
“We have been advised by the Secretary of State that he (McDaniel) should have been arrested for his conduct in the precinct,” Berger said.
“The manner in which he did it is the issue and is causing the problem,” Berger said. “Based on the statements we obtained from the pollworkers, he did not do a voter challenge in the manner that’s specified in the manual.”
Berger said Cain had already signed in and received a voting card when McDaniel issued the challenge.
“Once she’d been checked in and issued a card, she should have been allowed to vote,” Berger said. “He did not issue his challenge in a timely manner.”
Berger said McDaniel physically blocked Cain’s progress to the voting machine and interrupted the voting process for 20 minutes.
“That’s not something we can allow in the precinct,” Berger said. “That’s not something the commission can ignore.”
Pollworkers allowed Cain to vote on a paper ballot, put it in an envelope and marked it “challenged.” The commission later opened and accepted the vote.
“We were instructed to do so by the Secretary of State’s office, and they said we had no choice but to count the ballot,” Berger said.
McDaniel was sick Thursday and unable to comment. However, on Wednesday he sent text messages to the Enterprise-Journal explaining what he did and why.
“When I made my challenge, the pollworkers did not know what to do,” McDaniel said.
“I asked them to read page 28-29 of their manual. I then informed them that voting must stop, the challenge and evidence must be heard, and a decision had to be made.
“The voter also has time to rebut my claim. Pollworkers stopped me midway and said they had heard enough and accepted my challenge. The voter (Cain) chose not to speak.”
McDaniel said the election commission had no authority to open Cain’s ballot once it had been challenged.
“If the ballot was marked ‘challenged’ by the pollworkers, it is not to be counted in determining the outcome of the election. All challenged ballots are to be counted separately and can be considered in an election contest,” McDaniel said.