Optimism is dwindling for a local Tennessee Senate candidate who had hoped provisional ballots might bridge the 34-vote gap between him and apparent Democratic Primary winner Jim Lewis.
“From a poll I did of the other six counties in our senatorial district, the numbers just aren’t there even if each provisional ballot was a vote for Steve Roller,” said Warren County election administrator Donna Yates. “There just aren’t enough votes there.”
After last week’s election, Roller trailed Lewis by 34 votes. Lewis earned 2,935 votes in the seven-county district, while Roller claimed 2,901. Third was Justin Walling with 2,877.
The men are seeking the 16th District State Senate seat left open by the departure of state Sen. Eric Stewart, who is running against 4th District U.S. Congressman Scott DesJarlais in November.
Roller, who lost to Stewart in the Democratic Primary four years ago by 131 votes, had hoped provisional votes would provide the margin he needed to overtake Lewis. However, Smith said the math does not add up.
“We were able to count two of our seven provisional ballots here and one was a vote for Steve Roller,” Smith said, noting the other five provisional were not counted and the result leaves Roller now 33 votes back.
Provisional ballots are votes made by registered voters who did not bring photo ID as required by state law. For their vote to count, the voter had to return with photo ID by this past Monday.
As for other counties, Smith said the provisional ballots add up to just 16, with Grundy County having the next highest total with five. Coffee, the largest county in the senatorial district, has no provisional votes.
In Warren County, the vote will be made official this Monday. Smith says all counties in the district will have their votes official by Wednesday. Any dispute of the outcome could be made at that point.
“We may wait around and see if there is anyone going to contest the election,” Roller said, not revealing if he intends to file an official dispute of the results. His campaign did not file a dispute of the election between him and Stewart four years ago.
If nothing changes, Lewis will face Republican nominee Janice Bowling of Tullahoma in November. She raked in 8,159 votes in a four-candidate field, outdrawing her nearest competitors by nearly a 4-to-1 margin in the Republican Primary.