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Judge: Haren not allowed as write-in

With voting already underway in the August General Election, Chancellor Richard Johnson denied a request by Eddie Haren to have his votes counted as a write-in candidate for county commission in the 8th District.
The denial came during a hearing Monday afternoon where Haren represented himself in his case against the Washington County Election Commission.
The hearing stemmed from an error made in June by Election Administrator Connie Sinks, who mistakenly told Haren the wrong filing date for write-in candidates, causing him to file his paperwork two days after the state deadline.
Following the error, the election commission voted against counting any write-in votes for Haren because he filed late.
On June 30, Haren filed a petition with the court that was served on the election commission on July 6. The petition requested a judge hear the case and allow any votes he garnered in the election to be counted.
Legally, the commission had 30 days to respond to the petition and did so on July 29 with Monday’s court hearing subsequently being set.
County Attorney John Rambo argued in the courtroom that early voting had already taken place and allowing votes for Haren to be counted at this point would be disruptive to the election process.
“We already have an election going on. By some estimates, we’re a third to a half way through it,” Rambo said. “These issues were not resolved before people started casting their ballots.”
Sinks testified that 396 voters in the 8th District had already voted, either by absentee ballot or during the early voting period.
Rambo argued that allowing people to vote for Haren at this stage would be unfair to the two incumbents — Ben Bowman and Everett Jarrett — currently running for the two available seats.
“These two gentleman do not know they have a write-in candidacy being waged against them,” he said. “They might have altered their election strategy if they knew.”
Haren took issue with the election already being underway, pointing out he had filed his petition to the court two weeks before early voting was to begin.
“I thought when I originally filed it it would have been moved along quickly so it could be handled before early voting began,” Haren said. “I thought I did everything I was supposed to do. I called and no one could tell me what was going on. That left me, as the candidate, with no place to go.”
According to Rambo and Johnson, Haren could have filed a request for an extension of the filing deadline based on his situation, but he failed to do so. Haren also could have filed a writ of mandamus, which essentially asks the court to make a governmental entity “do what it’s supposed to do.”
Both of those things might have hurried up the case.
“If I’d known to do that, I definitely would have done it,” Haren said. “I tried to get to court as fast as I could.”
Following about an hour-long hearing, Johnson announced his decision to deny Haren’s votes from being counted.
“This is an election in progress,” Johnson said. “It would be disruptive at this point to attempt to put Mr. Haren on the ballot.”
After the court hearing, Rambo said he didn’t know if he thought the outcome would have been different if the hearing had taken place prior to early voting getting started.
“There were seven different factors the judge cited in his decision, so I don’t know, but I think it would have been more timely, certainly,” Rambo said.
While Haren argued that the county stalled the process, and not him, Rambo disagreed.
“He was consistently told after the deadline was missed that he would have to go to court,” Rambo said. “When you have to go to court, it is always best to at least get legal assistance.”