NEW ALBANY — New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan won a third term last week by 1,224 votes over his nearest opponent. But one candidate for the same office, independent Dan Coffey, said he believes some of the votes Gahan received were intended for him or Republican challenger Mark Seabrook.
Coffey said many voters had issues with the touch screen machines. He said as they touched the candidate's name for whom they wanted to vote, their vote jumped to another candidate. And if they didn't check over their final votes, they actually voted for the wrong person.
Gahan, the Democrat, finished with 4,631 votes while Seabrook had 3,407 and Coffey came in third at 409.
"I do not believe I would have won," Coffey told the Floyd County Election Board on Wednesday afternoon. "I have no doubt, though, by not looking into this that you are certifying an election where it's very questionable the one you say actually won, won."
Coffey said he has heard from many voters who had problems. He said as he voted for himself the machine registered the vote for Gahan. He asked for help and was able to change his vote. He said he had to touch underneath his name in order for it to register correctly.
"With the large turnout I'm not sure that I would have won. I do know we should have carried between 1,500 and 2,000 votes," he said. "With the machine taking votes from me and giving these same votes to one candidate, it would have altered the election results."
Members of the election board — Bill Lohmeyer, Rick Fox and Floyd County Clerk Danita Burks — said they can only certify the votes that were cast. The official certification must be sent to the state Monday.
"That is all we can do," Lohmeyer said.
Fox and Lohmeyer both said the state certifies the voting systems and vendors throughout the state to make sure those systems are appropriate for the election.
Lohmeyer said he knew of someone who did vote for the wrong candidate at first, because she was pressing too hard on the touch screen, but asked for help and was able to change it immediately. He said it's up to each voter to take some responsibility to look over their ballot before printing it off and feeding it into the machine.
"Everyone has that opportunity to review who they voted for before it is printed out," he said. "And even after it is printed out it can be [voided] if there is a mistake and you can vote again if you need to. You [Coffey] are the first one to challenge the system."
Floyd County Republican Party Chairman Shawn Carruthers said he had not heard any complaints from voters about the machines. A spokesperson for the Indiana Secretary of State's office has also not heard of any issues with the touch screens.
Floyd County Democrat Party Chair Adam Dickey said each election there are a handful of people who report problems with the voting process. However, he said he "feels confident" with the machines used in the county.
"We don't have a large scale report of issues," he said. "We want people to feel confident that when they cast ballots, their votes are tallied the proper way. I think these machines are better than some of the others used in the state."
But Coffey said the touch screens have been an issue for years.
"These machines have not worked right since the day we bought them," he said. "I don't know how you can certify this election. The votes were being recorded inaccurately for another candidate. I don't know how you can not look into this.
"Take some of those machines, hit my name and see what comes up. I think that would give you all the information you need."
Coffey said most people do not review their ballot because they believe the machines are mistake-free.
"They take it in good faith that these things are going to work right," he said. "That is how we are taught.
"We don't know if this is on the up and up. Voting is a right and we should make sure that right is done 100 percent correctly. This was not done correctly. There are too many questions."
However, unless state election officials agree and say there are too many irregularities or questions about the touch machines, or find other reasons to believe the election results are not 100 percent correct, the 2019 election will be certified.
"Unless you can get the state election board to say it was an invalid election," Lohmeyer told Coffey, when asked if the Floyd County board was going to certify the Nov. 5 results. "They are the ones who have to say it."