Morris overtakes Cox by 3 votes in city council race

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   City Councilwoman Diane Morris overtook apparent winner Sidney Cox by three votes in Tuesday's Elizabethton City Council race after voting totals compiled from a malfunctioning voting machine changed previously reported results.
   Voting results were temporarily delayed Tuesday night when the commission's CI-4800 cartridge tabulator that reads MicroVote voting machine cartridges blew a computer chip.
   "We had read four precincts and early voting totals when the chip went out," said Tracy T. Harris, administrator of elections.
   Initial results had Cox edging incumbent Morris by 10 votes. Two voting machines at the T.A. Dugger and East Side precincts malfunctioned on Election Day, according to election officials.
   Harris said two election commissioners retrieved a new cartridge tabulator from the Washington County Election Commission to finish compiling results. A MicroVote machine at the East Side precinct malfunctioned on Tuesday, but no one had voted on that machine, said Harris.
   Another MicroVote machine at the T.A. Dugger precinct began emitting smoke on Tuesday morning. Harris said MicroVote personnel replaced the motherboard on the machine. The machine's voting results were unable to be read until Wednesday morning due to the loss of the cartridge tabulator.
   On Tuesday night, an election official had indicated that less than ten persons had voted on the voting machine at T.A. Dugger. Cox, at that time, held a lead of 10 votes over Morris.
   However, on Wednesday, Harris said the machine had yielded 49 total votes. Those votes were counted and pushed Morris' total to 1,617 votes and Cox's to 1,614 votes.
   "I am definitely surprised," said Morris on Wednesday night. Morris spoke to the Star from the Johnson City Medical Center where she was hospitalized and undergoing treatment for cancer. Morris has been battling cancer since being diagnosed in early October.
   Morris said she heard during the early afternoon that result totals could be changing.
   "I heard the news this morning that Sid had won, and I had pretty much accepted it because the will of the voters is fine with me," she said. "I am happy to get to serve with the same group again because we have so much going on. I think it's great we can maintain our current progress."
   According to unofficial results tallied Tuesday night, Mayor Pro Tem Sam Shipley and fellow incumbents Janie Smith McKinney and Pat "Red" Bowers won re-election to the city council. Council members Mayor Sam LaPorte, Richard Sammons and Nancy Alsup do not face re-election for another two years.
   City Manager Charles Stahl said Wednesday that the sitting council had worked well together and drawn a consensus on most major issues during the past four years.
   "The current council has worked well together and respected one another while putting issues first in the city," said Stahl. "I would expect that to continue."
   Unofficial vote totals released Wednesday found Republican nominee Jerome Cochran winning by 9,818 votes. Write-in candidate Ralph Cole picked up 3,084 out of 3,842 write-in votes including absentee and early voting tallies in the 4th District house race.
   The sitting council will meet in regular session on Nov. 14. Judge John Walton will swear in candidates elected in Tuesday's race into office on Nov. 19. All results are unofficial until certified by the Carter County Election Commission.