A special election has been ordered in the Boonville City Council District 4 race featuring Democrats Steve Byers and Chad Pryor.
Pryor originally lost to councilmember Byers by 28 votes during the May 7 primary, but he ended up filing a lawsuit against the county clerk's office just shortly after, with allegations of problems with the e-poll books used not having the correct voting or district map data.
And after a lengthy June 27 trial hearing, Judge Greg Granger issued a ruling on July 10 that a special election on for the Boonville City Council District 4 race will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 10.
Originally, Granger had ordered a recount when Pryor's petition first came in.
But then the clerk's office filed a petition for a dismissal. But before the dismissal could be decided on, the city of Boonville stepped in to replace the clerk's office as the defendants in the case and Granger heard the case on June 27.
Byers, with his attorney and the city's attorney, argued against the special election. Despite no longer being defendants, County Clerk Patty Perry and election office worker Cathy Oser took the stand as witnesses in the case.
Although the city didn't want another special election either, Boonville City Attorney Mark Phillips said the city decided to get involved with the case so that nothing like this would happen again.
"We want to make sure the voting district data reflects the maps they were given months ago," said Phillips, adding that Byers would still win by a high margin even with a special election.
Pryor's attorney argued that when the city of Boonville passed ordinance 2018-14, which created new district boundaries, that even though those maps were given to the election office, they were never implemented. For example,
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Pryor's aunt, Barbara Pryor, who technically lives in District 3, was able to vote for him even though he was representing District 4.
And Pryor himself said he was almost unable to even vote on election day.
"I was almost turned away to vote," Pryor said. "They said I wasn't eligible to vote, but I was on the ballot."
Oser and Perry were both adamant that the maps had been implemented.
"I can tell you we run a very tight election," Perry said. "And I am very proud of our record."
But in his ruling, Judge Granger did not seem as convinced, writing, "Despite the pride and confidence exhibited by the Warrick County Circuit Court Clerk's Office in the validity of the election results, an aura of uncertainty permeates the election process as performed, demanding the imposition of a special election in order to restore public confidence in the electoral process. Absent this check and balance, the 2019 city of Boonville District 4 primary results as currently composed would cast a chilling effect on those who voted and were confident their vote was meaningful. Additionally, those who did not vote for whatever reason would be emboldened by a process which could be regarded as faulty and fuel any future distrust in the electoral process."
Granger further went on to write that "pursuant to I.C. 3-12-8-17, there has occurred a mistake in the programming of the electronic voting system, making it impossible to determine which candidate for Boonville City Council District 4 received the highest number of votes. Therefore, the Court orders that a special election be conducted under I.C. 3-10-8."
Pryor was also ordered to pay the costs of the new special election, which is in accordance with I.C.3-12. As of Tuesday, Perry said she was uncertain how much the special election would cost.
The Warrick County election board is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. on Friday, July 19 in the Warrick County Election Office, which is located at the Judicial Center.
The special election for the Boonville City Council District 4 race will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 10, while the general election will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 5.