County Clerk Wes Wagner About His Council Critics: 'They're Not My Boss'
Jefferson County Clerk Wes Wagner was criticized by two members of the county council about the late posting of vote totals on election night.
Despite harsh criticism from two Jefferson County Council members about later-than-normal vote totals reported in Jefferson County on election night , County Clerk Wes Wagner said he is "very happy with the effort" made by vote counters in his office.
Election returns were not posted to the county clerk's website until 10:37 p.m. Wagner said, when 100 percent of the votes had been tabulated. There were no partial returns posted during the evening.
The development drew sharp words from Jefferson County Council Member Don Bickowski (District 1) and District 2 council member Renee Reuter.
"I'm pretty angry about it." Bickowski said Tuesday. He drove to Hillsboro Tuesday night and obtained a paper copy of the vote totals from the county clerk's office just prior to the numbers being posted online. "How does a first class county wind up not posting any results until after 10:30 p.m.?"
"I'm sure the council will put Wes on the hot seat a little bit," Bickowski said.
Reuter, who was on the ballot, and successful in her bid for re-election, also was upset with the time it took to post election results.
"I am very disappointed in the delay from the election judges," Reuter said Tuesday night. "Jefferson County should be ashamed."
Wagner was unapologetic for the way his office handled vote tabulation, although he said the results typically have been posted earlier in the evening in past elections.
"My job is to protect the voters," Wagner said Thursday. "Getting the information out to the candidates and the media is low on the totem pole for me."
As to the criticism from Bickowkski and Reuter: "That's their opinion. They're not my boss," Wagner said.
Wagner said there were a couple of reasons the vote totals were later than usual.
He said it took longer than expected to gather absentee ballots from hospitals around the area. Wagner said two teams of election judges (one Democrat and one Republican on each team), were dispatched to Missouri Baptist Medical Center, Mercy Medical Center and SSM St. Clare Health Center, among others, to collect "20 or 30" absentee ballots from voters who were unable to go to the polls, including the mother of a high-ranking Republican Jefferson County elected official who was in the hospital and wanted to vote.
Another snafu delayed the vote counting as well, he said.
Wagner said a voter at the polling place at the First Baptist Church of Murphy folded her ballot in half before inserting it into the voting machine that collects the ballots.
"It really jammed it up," Wagner said.
As a result, about 2,600 ballots had to be recounted by hand, a process that took from 8:15 p.m. to about 10:25 p.m. Wagner said by then, it was decided to release 100 percent of the the final, unofficial vote totals, instead of posting partial totals and then adding the Murphy numbers into the mix.
"I'm very proud of what we do" Wagner said. "Sometimes things are beyond our control."