JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) — James Reeves nearly toppled incumbent Republican Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy on Aug. 4, but now the independent is considering contesting the results and is convinced he won.
“They have stolen the election,” Reeves told News Channel 11 Wednesday, without referring specifically to who “they” are. “People should go to jail. This is pure evil at its worst — our vote is sacred.”
Washington County’s election commission certified the results Tuesday, with Grandy’s 141-vote unofficial margin shrinking to 139 with the addition of two provisional ballots. But Reeves, who has spent several hours going over the results with Election Administrator Dana Jones, said he believes someone tampered with at least three machines at the Heritage Center early voting site.
“I won,” Reeves said. “They know I won, I know I won.”
The overall result in the election with turnout below 13% was 5,452 votes for Grandy and 5,313 for Reeves, or a 50.6% to 49.4% margin.
But Reeves said the results from three of the 10 voting machines used at Heritage, which accounted for 2,515 of the 10,765 total votes cast, showed him with a 94-vote lead over Grandy, or 54.7% to 45.3%. He said that was unsurprising given the site’s location in the west part of the county, where he polled well in several precincts.
Three other machines show Grandy with a combined 62-vote margin and 53.8% of the vote to Reeves’s 46.2%. Reeves told News Channel 11 that doesn’t make sense mathematically and showed that the votes across machines at the other two early voting sites, Crossroads and Freedom Hall, were consistent with Grandy winning on all the machines there.
More than 200 hours of labor from Jones and her staff of five, though, yielded no evidence to change the results from the Heritage site. She said the group pored over all the paperwork that the voting machines produce, including two signed papers for each voter and an accompanying voter list.
“He lost by 139, that’s pretty tough,” Jones said. “I wanted to do what I could to help ease him and let him realize that our election results, especially in today’s society, our election results are valid and we do have that paper trail.”
Jones said the office printed out everybody who voted at Heritage according to the state computer and came up with 2,515 signatures, then “married everything back together in terms of each document for each voter as well as the voter list.
“There’s nobody missing. 2,515 signatures and I have every single one of their applications and their machine apps in here. We are not missing one piece of paper.”
Reeves said he doesn’t dispute that and doesn’t have a specific piece of evidence on which to contest the election. Rather, he believes the machines were tampered with.
“Their argument is, ‘well, how’d they do it? Why’d they do it?'” Reeves said.
“That’s not my problem, that’s your problem. You tell me the machines are locked and you have a key and the person in charge of the building has a key, the precinct captain. I said ‘so locks can’t be picked?’ And I said I go in there to look at the numbers they put on and then they seal them? They cut all the straps. They’re gone, they’re in the garbage. I said ‘did you check to see if somebody reglued them or plastic-welded them?’ No. Nobody did that.”
Jones said when Reeves first approached her with his concerns she wanted to go above and beyond to address them.
“We’re thinking about our voters and we’re thinking about Mr. Reeves,” she said. “We don’t want anybody to have any suspicions or think there’s any monkey business going on here. We do everything according to state law.”
She said that includes a very specific and secure process each night when an early voting site is shut down. The machines are stored in a deadbolt-locked room with operators having to put new safety seals on machines each night.
“Every night when we’re away from the precinct, your machines have seals on them and they are protected, and we keep a paperwork trail of that,” Jones said. “We did a form for him to show him about the protective counts at the beginning and the protective counts at the end and what the vote count was expected to be and what the vote count actually was. We did that for all 10 machines.”
As for Reeves’s claim of tampering, Jones said the evidence simply isn’t there — and that she also offered proof of all the methods taken to protect the process. Those include the ability to run voting logs showing exactly when each machine is turned off and turned back on.
“The machines in the vaults are safe at nighttime,” she said. “They’re still under lock and key, there’s still a security system on the door, they don’t connect to the internet. Everything matches up. Our voters match up. This is what we have done to put his mind at ease, and I am very, very proud of my staff…and what they have done is gone above and beyond for a resident of our county so that everybody can have confidence that we have safe and secure elections in Washington County.”
Reeves said he simply can’t accept the results from the Heritage machines and that he believes an accurate result from them would have tilted the election in his favor.
“I did all the math first, and I’m going to show you where the math got me,” he said, flipping through a legal pad with detailed, handwritten precinct-by-precinct and machine-by-machine results.
“This is the math. This is me figuring out every voting machine. This is proving Crossroads, this is proving Heritage. This is all the people that voted in the precinct … and the math works out on Freedom Hall and Crossroads (the other two early voting sites).”
Tennessee law allows a candidate up to five days following certification to contest election results in the local chancery court. Reeves said he’s still mulling a legal challenge.
“I tell everybody right now, I’ve got to 3, 3:30 Friday,” he said. “It would have to be somebody come forward with information. I just don’t have a miracle in my hand, I don’t see it.”
Reeves said he even obtained voter lists and began calling some voters, though he was “skittish about doing it.”
“People don’t really want to tell you on the phone who they voted for,” Reeves said. “And I would need basically 110 affidavits of people saying they voted for me, or being willing to get in front of a judge. I can’t expect people to do that, and that would be hard evidence.”
Jones said the election commission has provided all the evidence available and that she intends to keep approaching the role she was appointed to just 16 months ago the same as she has from the beginning.
“If someone has a question we should be an open office, we should be a public office,” she said. “We haven’t turned down one records request. We’re not going to. If you look at my website we have put everything on there from campaign financing to when you pick up a petition to when you turn in a petition. It’s the right thing to do, and I was always raised that you do the next right thing so we’re going to continue to do the next right thing.”
Reeves didn’t directly criticize Jones or her employees, but he sounded like a man who won’t ever believe he lost the election whether he contests it or not.
“At the end of the day, I know I won,” he said. “It’s that simple. And I’ll go to the grave knowing that and maybe that’s all God needs me to know, that ‘you won, but I got a different path for you.’ Maybe that’s it.”
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