A 16 hour delay in reporting of the results in Thursday’s Republican primary in State House District 70 by Lawrence County election officials that resulted in a dramatic narrowing of the margin by which State Rep. Barry “Boss” Doss (R-Leoma) lost to newcomer Clay Doggett is raising serious questions about the conduct of those officials.
“The fact that several different and inconsistent vote numbers have been reported from Lawrence County over the past 24 hours raises serious questions about whether the disparities are due to incompetence or actual technical issues or something more sinister. The fact that the Secretary of State’s office seemed to have no idea that there were problems indicates that an investigation or a full audit is in order,” Tennessee Star Political Editor Steve Gill said.
Late Friday, the Election Administrator’s office confirmed to The Tennessee Star that Lawrence County Election Commissioner Stephen Thompson, who previously served as a campaign advisor to Barry Doss in one of his first elections, was in the Lawrence County Election Office Thursday night when the “problems” with vote counts occurred.
A screen shot taken of the Tennessee Secretary of State election results website at 11:59 pm on election day, Thursday, August 2, 2018, showed the following results:
By 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, virtually every county in the state had reported complete results to the Tennessee Secretary of State
The Tennessee Star published a story 18 minutes later at 12:17 a.m. that, according to the results posted at the Tennessee Secretary of State’s website at 11:59 p.m., reported Doggett had defeated Doss 55 percent to 45 percent. Doggett had received 906 votes more than Doss, 4,490 votes to 3,584.
Ten minutes later, at 12:27 a.m., an anonymous commenter who described themselves as “Concerned Citizen” posted the following in The Star’s comment section on that story:
Just a quick correction, Clay won by 300 votes in a much tighter margin than represented here. Just want the facts to be correct.
Giles County’s Clay Doggett unseated incumbent Barry Doss in last night’s Republican primary for the District 70 Tennessee House of Representatives seat.
In his first run at political office, Doggett outpaced Doss in Giles County by almost two-to-one with 3,076 votes to Doss’ 1,559.
In Doss’ home Lawrence County, Doggett was able to gain enough votes to make his lead in Giles County stand up.
When the votes were all totaled, Doggett had 5,277 (51.7 percent) and Doss 4,924 (48.2 percent).
It was not until about 4:25 p.m. on Friday–more than 16 hours after an anonymous commenter first posted in a comment at The Star that Doggett’s margin of victory was actually 300 votes–that Lawrence County election officials transmitted the “unofficial” final votes from the county in the Republican primary in House District 70 and those results were posted that the Tennessee Secretary of State’s website showed Doggett’s margin of victory over Doss was 305 votes.
Notably, in the intervening 16 hours between 11:59 p.m. Thursday, August 2, and 4:25 p.m., Friday August 3, Doss’s margin in his home county of Lawrence County jumped from 611 votes (2,025 for Doss to 1,414 for Doggett) to 1,212 votes (3,498 votes to 2,286).
A source at the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office told The Star late Friday they had not received any communication from Lawrence County election officials to explain the irregular 16 hour time lag between midnight, when apparently preliminary results were reported, and 4:25 pm, when apparently unofficial final results were reported.