Kennesaw City Council hears “unconventional” city council election recount update

Janine Eveler at podium facing Kennesaw City Council with residents in chairs behind herCobb Election Director Janine Eveler speaks to Kennesaw City Council (photo by Rebecca Gaunt)

By Rebecca Gaunt

Instead of swearing in a new council member as originally planned, Monday’s Kennesaw City Council meeting started with an update on the ongoing recount by Cobb County Director of Elections Janine Eveler.

Eveler said she was hopeful the count would be completed later that night, but couldn’t promise anything. Once finished, a public meeting will be called for the Cobb Board of Elections to recertify the results.

The Courier reached out to the Cobb elections office Tuesday morning for an update and will continue to update the story.

“I have been tracking city elections since 1972. Fifty years. I have never, never seen anything like this,” Councilman Pat Ferris said.

The recount is being conducted at the request of Madelyn Orochena, who was certified the winner of the very close election until it was discovered that an employee at elections headquarters missed uploading one of the two memory cards with 789 votes from Kennesaw precinct 3A. The updated results flipped the election win to Lynette Burnette with 1,756 votes.

Orochena is legally entitled to request the recount because she lost by less than 0.5%. In her case, she lost by 31 votes, or 0.32%.

Eveler clarified the memory card was never missing and was returned to headquarters in the sealed pouch the night of the Nov. 8 election, but an employee failed to follow procedures in place.

“We have a checklist in the receiving group that opens the pouch, checks the seal, opens the pouch and counts that the memory cards have been returned. So, in this case, they have a checklist that says there is either one scanner or two scanners at that polling location. The receiver in this case checked the checklist: there were two memory cards. They marked two on their checklist and handed it to the person that was uploading it to the tabulation machine…she didn’t check her checklist that said there [were] two and reached into the bag, pulled one memory card out, and uploaded it, put that card back into the pouch, and handed it off to another worker,” Eveler said.

The recount requires staff to go through about 185,000 ballots.

As of last night they had about 11 boxes to go from advance voting locations. Each box is about 1,500 to 2,000 ballots.

Five of the seven candidates attended the Council meeting. Orochena was still at the Cobb County elections headquarters for the recount. The enigmatic Burnette was not present. Over the weekend, her representative Neil Bitting told the Courier she will not be speaking to anyone until the election is settled.

Bitting sent a statement on her behalf that said, “I am humbled to have the opportunity to serve the people of Kennesaw. It may have been an unconventional election; however, I look forward to keeping Kennesaw the best community.”

During public comment, assistant city manager Marty Hughes read emails to the city into the record.

Dane Thomas wrote, “It is unconventional for a candidate to win who did not attend any public town halls, and conduct any interviews, and also attend any city events. There are six other candidates who did more. They and their families dedicated countless hours to prove that they were serious about serving this city.”

Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.

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