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Clark County fixes ballot count error, gives projected win to Democrat Rita Fleming

According to the Indiana Secretary of State's website, Democrat Rita Fleming has won the race with 50.4% to Republican Scott Hawkins' 49.6%.

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. — The continuation of the vote in the Indiana State House District 71 has changed the results in what was a tight race on election night.

Tuesday night, Republican Scott Hawkins was leading 50% to Democrat Rita Fleming's 49.9%, with a difference of 35 votes.

According to the Indiana Secretary of State's website, Fleming is projected to have won the race with 50.4% to Hawkins' 49.6%.

"We always want things to run smoothly and perfectly, but that’s why there are checks and balances," Fleming said about the ballot count error. 

Clark County Democratic Party Chair Chris Coyle congratulated Fleming on her win.

"Dr. Fleming will continue to be an outstanding representative for our Clark County community," he said. "We had confidence that once all of the ballots were counted, Rita would prevail. I want to thank the members of the Clark County Election Board, Andy Steel, Mark Grube, and Clerk Susan Popp, for a thorough and professional process."

Hawkins and his lawyers came out to Friday morning's canvass. He said he won't concede and they plan to take action.

"It's disappointing, of course, but ultimately, we'll find out what the will of the people was on election night, and ultimately we'll go with the will of the people," Hawkins said.

Zach Stewart, Hawkins' lawyer, said they are considering all options available to them because "we cannot trust this result."

Fleming said Hawkins has every right to a recount.

"That's what makes our system and our democracy so great, is that, that opportunity exists," she said.

Russell Brooksbank, chair of the Libertarian Party of Clark County, also came to the canvass. 

While he applauds the board owning up to the mistake, he said he finds the discrepancy disheartening.

"I want to trust that my vote is being counted, and when things like this happen that's where we get all the distrust in the system," Brooksbank said.

He said it's on everyone to know how elections work, and he said the best way to find out is to volunteer.

What happened?

Officials say during the routine ballot canvassing process, they were notified that approximately 1,700 absentee ballots from Clark County were not included in the unofficial vote totals released to the public Tuesday night. 

County Clerk Susan Popp says the issue was caused by data not transferring from a voting machine to the election totals. She was clear that no ballots were "found" as previously reported.

Popp said all seven of the county's voting machines that counted absentee ballots were working perfectly, the issue came when staff took out the memory cards. One of the cards didn't transfer to the computer system, she said.

"I think all votes should be counted, and they will in this race, obviously," Clark County Chairman of the Republican Party, Sheriff Jamey Noel, said. "The result may not change, but if it does, we'll accept that new result."

The county's Election Board held an emergency meeting once the issue was noted, officials added, with representatives of both parties present for the discussion. 

Coyle said both parties wanted to look at all of the memory cards and retabulate the totals.

"According to the Indiana Election Division of the Secretary of the State's Office, this would have been a proper action," he said.

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