"It was shady. And really, really weird."
COLUMBIA, Mo 1/11/16 (Beat Byte) -- An eyewitness to vote counting for the Columbia Business Loop CID's new sales tax says CID (Community Improvement District) officials mishandled the process, kicking public observers out of the counting room while permitting Loop CID director Carrie Gartner to oversee the vote counters.
Bi-partisan election judges were hired to count the votes. The sales tax passed with a wafer-thin margin of four votes to three.
"I was at Parkade Center when the votes were counted. It was shady," said Mark Flakne, who directs liberty advocacy group Keep Columbia Free (KCF). "CID employees and attorneys were in the counting room with election judges. Gartner -- whose $70,000 annual salary depended on the measure passing -- was in the room. I went to the glass door of the room and watched her hand out paychecks to the election judges."
Watching the count with Columbia residents Michael MacMann and Jennifer Henderson -- who has filed a lawsuit alleging the election was a "sham of unprecedented magnitude" -- Flakne posted a minute-by-minute timeline on KCF's private Facebook group.
"The election officials kicked the public observers out of the counting room," Flakne noted Dec. 10, 7:03 pm. "Now, they just let Carrie Gartner in."
Vote count watching is a near-sacred right election officials try to preserve whenever requested.
A comedy of errors parodied in this publication, on the Daily Show, and elsewhere has plagued the Loop CID since its board of directors attempted to gerrymander all eligible voters out of CID boundaries, handing sole control of the tax process to business members. Journalists and election officials later found Henderson and 13 other area residents registered to vote. Gartner announced one more voter, bringing the total to 15.
Henderson has criticized the sales tax -- which will hit grocery stores like Aldi's and Moser's -- for its disproportionate impact on low income residents who live near Hickman High School and the Business Loop. Gartner came under fire for trying to persuade Henderson to "un-register" from voter rolls. “That's pretty manipulative,” Henderson told reporters.
Flakne's Facebook timeline of the vote count, with comments from Henderson, continues below:
Mark Flakne Carrie just went in and handed out checks to all of the judges.
Like · Reply · December 10 at 7:25pm