Mansfield Candidate Declared Winner In Race Left Off Some Ballots

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SCOTT COUNTY (KFSM) – A candidate for Mansfield City Council has officially won his race, despite it mistakenly being left off of Scott County ballots.

Nathan Sterling gathered 130 votes (63 percent) to incumbent alderwoman Christie Salmaron’s 55 (26 percent) and candidate Tyna Martin’s 23 votes (11 percent) during the general election for the at-large city council seat Nov. 4. Those numbers, though, only count Sebastian County voters, as the candidates were mistakenly left off of Scott County ballots.

Mansfield lies in both Sebastian and Scott counties.

The Scott County Election Commission certified its results Thursday. County officials said Sebastian County followed suit Friday, making Sterling the winner.

Sterling said earlier in the week he would feel uneasy representing a Scott County constituency who did not have the opportunity to vote for or against him, but he decided not to file an official complaint with the election commission, which may have delayed the certification of the election results.

"At this point basically I guess legal action had to be taken against the election commission," Sterling said. "I didn't feel like it was my position to do so."

Sterling noted he won by 75 votes, and 95 voters cast ballots in Scott County. He said an usually high percentage of voters would have had to vote for Salmeron in Scott County for her to overtake him in the race.

"It's pure speculation at this point, I wouldn't want to try to make that assumption as to if I would've won Scott County or not," Sterling said.

If any of the three candidates had filed an official complaint or a lawsuit by Thursday, the certification may have been delayed and a judge may have ordered a special election, prosecutor Tom Tatum told 5NEWS earlier this week.

"I didn't feel like it was my position to do so," Sterling said. "I feel it`s unfair that Scott County didn`t get to vote for who they felt should be in the position."

Scott County Election Commissioners found out the morning after the election that the city council candidates had mistakenly been left off of the Scott County ballots. They correctly appeared on Sebastian County ballots, according to the election commission.

Voters are split on whether or not there should have been a special election to fix the ballot error.

"To me it's a waste of money. You know city council is not a real big deal," Bobby Musgrove, resident said.

"If they weren't put on the right place for everyone to vote on them, then they should correct it and let everybody have their say," voter Danita Henderson said.

Scott County election coordinator Daymon Cook immediately sought help from the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office to fix the ballot mistake. A representative with the secretary’s office told Cook there was nothing they could do, since the election had already taken place, the election coordinator said.

Cook said he asked if the election commission could just add the city council position to the planned ballot for a mayor’s runoff, and the Secretary of State’s office told him such a move would not be legal.

Later, the prosecutor reviewing the case and the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners notified Scott County it could not legally hold a separate special election to fix the problem.

The only way a special election could have been held would be if one of the candidates filed a lawsuit or an official complaint before the votes were certified. As of Friday, no official complaint or lawsuit had been filed, according to the Scott County Circuit Clerk’s office.

Sterling told 5NEWS it's unfortunate many people are unhappy with the way things were handled, but he's focused on moving forward and doing what's best for the city. He will be sworn into office in January.