Rutherford County’s Aug. 7 vote is certified, but the Election Office is anticipating a potential challenge by state Sen. Jim Tracy of a 38-vote loss to Congressman Scott DesJarlais in the Republican primary for the 4th Congressional District race.
The final votes across the 16-county district were to be certified last Friday, and Tracy would have five days to contest the election, with the State Republican Primary Board, which would consider arguments and determine how to proceed.
Tracy is set to make a decision Monday, his campaign said Friday.
“Sen. Tracy is reviewing additional information over the weekend and will have a decision on whether or not to contest the election on Monday,” campaign chair Stephanie Jarnigan said. “When there are over 70,000 votes cast and it comes down to a little over 30 votes difference, I think it’s important to dot your I’s and cross your t’s. I know Jim and his family have been extremely grateful for the outpouring of support they have received through this process.”
If he challenges, the Rutherford County Election Office would take its direction from the Secretary of State’s office, according to Administrator of Elections Alan Farley.
An election challenge could involve checking votes in all 16 counties or just a few of them, he said, projecting that the results of a contest would be determined between Sept. 10-20.
The potential for no contest exists as well, Farley pointed out, noting it depends on the fact-finding of Tracy’s campaign. He added that a challenge could lead to a “long, drawn-out process.”
Farley was uncertain how long it would take to conduct a recount of Rutherford County’s 32,675 ballots. Consequently, he wasn’t sure whether a recount would affect preparations for the Nov. 4 state and federal election. Early voting begins Oct. 16.
However, the Election Office does face a Sept. 21 mailing deadline to send absentee ballots to those serving in the military, Farley said, calling it a “benchmark” for the Nov. 4 vote.
“Right now, we’re just sitting here waiting to be called and told what we need to provide,” he said. “If they’re going to contest it, they would want some evidence of claims they could make.”
DesJarlais holds 34,793 votes to Tracy’s 34,755 in the race, according to the Secretary of State’s website. The Bedford County Republican and veteran state senator claimed victory the night of Aug. 7, but after late returns from Grundy County came in and gave DesJarlais a 35-vote lead, he made his own victory speech.
As final provisional votes gave the South Pittsburg physician a 38-vote lead recently, DesJarlais called on Tracy to concede the race for the good of the voters and the state Republican Party.
Tracy refused to concede last week, though. His campaign said he was waiting until provisional ballots were counted and all votes certified before he decided whether to contest.
Provisional ballots are cast primarily for two reasons, those in which voters fail to show proper photo ID on Election Day, and situations in which voters may not be registered properly in the district where they live. They can cast provisional ballots and return in five business days to show a proper photo ID, and in other cases, the election office must check to see if they are registered properly.
Rutherford County had only one provisional ballot that counted, and it went to neither of the frontrunners.