Recount shows Smith still winner of district clerk race

By Marilyn Tennissen | Nov 21, 2014

After a recount of the votes in the race for Jefferson County District Clerk, the winner of the election remains the same.

After losing the election by a margin of only 1.5 percent, Republican candidate Charlie Wiggins requested a recount. Results of the process showed only a slight difference in the results, with Beaumont City Councilman Jamie Smith still declared the winner.

Wiggins did not return calls requesting comment, but he told the Record in a recent interview that his main reason for asking for the recount was to ensure there were no irregularities in the voting process after several thousand votes were reported at the end of Election Day.

According to county election officials, Smith received 26,672 votes while Wiggins received 25,885. Those were the numbers reported on Nov. 12 after provisional ballots that had been accepted were counted and military mail-in ballots came in within the six-day deadline, Chief Deputy County Clerk Theresa Goodness said.

After the recount, Smith had 26,686 votes, and Wiggins had 25,884 votes. Smith picked up 14 more votes, while Wiggins lost one, the results show.

The recount began at 8 a.m. Nov. 19, with 20 teams of three members each. Goodness said the last workers left the Central Counting Station at about 8:45 p.m.

Wiggins had originally requested that every ballot be hand-counted, which would have taken even longer, Goodness said.

Instead of printing out the ballot images from every electronic voting machine and manually checking the votes cast for district clerk, Wiggins decided instead to accept flash card summaries.

As Goodness explained, when the electronic voting machines are closed on Election Day, each prints a “closed poll tape” that gives a summary of ballots cast on the machine.

She said the flash cards from the machines were re-run and verified against every tape, and “they all matched.”

Wiggins and his poll watchers were satisfied with that, and did not ask for ballot images to be printed, Goodness said.

The differences that showed up in the recount were from hand counts of the paper mail-in ballots, she said.

For the past nine years, Smith has been an office administrator in the county clerk's office, and is a member of the Beaumont City Council. His term there is set to expire in May.

Smith graduated from West Brook High School in Beaumont, and has a masters in educational leadership from Lamar University.

According to the Texas Association of Counties, the district clerk has a duty to keep the records of the district court safe and properly arranged. The district clerk must, among other things, record the acts and proceedings of the district courts, enter all judgments of the courts under the direction of the judges, record all executions issued and the returns issued on the executions, administer child support payments, administer trust accounts for minors ordered by the courts keep an index of the parties to all suits filed in the court, and make reference to any judgment made in the case and keep an account of all funds collected by the office, including fines and fees, and determine the amount due to citizens who serve on a jury in district court.

It differs from the duties of the county clerk in that the county clerk is the custodian of all county records including birth, death, cattle brands, hospital liens, deeds, deeds of trust, liens, Certificates of Release or Discharge from Active Duty (DD 214), and a variety of other important records both public and non-public. The county clerk also issues and maintains marriage licenses and records assumed name certificates.

The Jefferson County district clerk's office has had an interim leader since the death of Lolita Ramos in October 2013. Ramos had held the position since 2002, and had been county clerk from 1986 to 1995.



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