District 25 recount underway in Crawford County; Washington County reports no anomalies, while Franklin County shows slight change

FAYETTEVILLE — Washington County election officials spent 11 a.m. Tuesday recounting the votes cast in the race between Jody Harris and Chad Puryear for the Republican nomination for the State House seat for District 25.

At the end of the recount, the county’s voting machines showed no abnormalities.

“Everything was exactly what we had on Election Day,” Jennifer Price, executive director of the Washington County Elections Commission, said after the recount ended.

Price said election officials reviewed a draft ballot with one vote cast in the District 25 race and found it would count. The voter had not provided acceptable identification when voting on Election Day, but later took proof of his identity to the Washington County Clerk’s Office. The additional ballot, with a vote for Puryear, will be added to the final totals when the election is certified.

With Election Day results showing a difference of just six votes, Harris called for a recount in the three counties — Washington, Crawford and Franklin — that make up the district.

District-wide, Puryear got 2,209 votes in the final, but unofficial, results released on Election Day, and Harris got 2,203.

Franklin County election officials began their recount at 9 a.m. Tuesday and ended around 12:30 p.m., according to information from the Franklin County Clerk’s Office.

The results were slightly different from the Election Day tally, with Harris receiving 131 votes and Puryear 139 votes after an absentee ballot was added to the tally, Harris said Tuesday afternoon. Franklin County had to recount a total of 3,507 votes.

In Washington County, election officials had to recount the 29,571 votes cast in the county to see if there were any changes from the Election Day results. In that tally, Harris had 1,360 votes and Puryear 1,331.

Crawford County officials began their recount on Saturday, but halted the process after Harris raised questions about mail-in ballots cast in the county.

“I asked the Elections Commission if we could see all the original mail-in ballots and mail-in ballots that had to be redone,” Harris said Tuesday.

Harris said he was told the original mail-in ballots were at the home of Election Commission Chairman Bill Coleman.

“It breaks the chain of custody of the ballots,” Harris said.

The Crawford County recount was scheduled to resume today with state election officials present to observe.

Chris Madison, legal counsel for the state Board of Election Commissioners, said the need to “remake” ballots is not uncommon. He said vote-counting machines sometimes won’t read folded or crumpled ballots.

“People are getting upset about recast ballots,” Madison said Tuesday. “These are usually mail-in ballots that get mailed out and get crumpled up. Election officials have to redo the ballots so they can be counted.”

Harris said she will be present when Crawford County officials resume their count this Wednesday morning. She said her campaign would reassess the situation when the recounts were completed and decide if further action could be taken.

Nate Bell, representing Puryear’s campaign in the Washington County recount, said the campaign “trusts the process and has no further comment.”

The district extends from the Washington County line in the north to Crawford County in the south and includes parts of western Franklin County. The first winner will face Democratic candidate Caitlin Oxford of Fayetteville in the November 8 general election.

Rep. Bruce Coleman, R-Mountainburg, decided not to run for office after the district lost much of Crawford County last year. Legislative district boundaries were redrawn following the 2020 U.S. Census to equalize populations.

The state has 100 home districts. State representatives serve two-year terms and receive a base salary of $44,357. They also receive daily allowances and reimbursement of their expenses.

About the author