15th Senate District candidate Steakley contest election
by: Liz Engel Clark,
A candidate who lost his bid for state office is officially challenging that election, even though the results from Nov. 2 have already been certified by respective election commissions.
Republican Gary Steakley, who lost the 15th District state Senate race to incumbent Charlotte Burks (D-Monterey) by less than 200 votes, has filed a contest of election with the state. In that filing, Steakley claims voting machines were tampered with and that ultimately affected the outcome of the race.
"I believe there has been fraud committed," Steakley said during a Putnam County Election Commission meeting earlier this month, during which election officials said red seals, which are used primarily for identification, had been broken on five machines -- four from a precinct in Monterey and one from Cane Creek. Taped seals on the bottom of nine other machines were also broken when inspected at a later date. "We have an integrity issue here," Steakley continued. "The integrity has been broken, there is no integrity with these machines. The fact is, there have been seals cut on these machines."
Steakley asked the commission to delay certifying the election results until a thorough investigation could be conducted by federal officials, namely the FBI. But the commission voted to move forward as scheduled and Putnam County's results were certified Nov. 15. Commissioners said all numbers matched up -- voting tallies from the machines in question were paired with voter cards filled out prior to ballots being cast.
All elections were supposed to be certified by Nov. 22. The 15th Senate District also covers Cumberland, Jackson, Overton, Pickett and White counties.