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Fayette County primary decided by single vote

Primary decided by single vote

FAYETTE COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) — Both the winning and losing candidates in one primary said Wednesday the result of the race demonstrates the difference one vote can make.

Tracie Bever was first caucused onto the Fayette County Commission in fall 2021 after the death of her predecessor, and is now running for her first full term. She drew two challengers in the Republican primary: Jim Wulff and Daniel Chambers. Wulff ran a very close second to Bever throughout the night while Chambers came in third. Bever told News 8 the candidates watched the returns come in at the county clerk’s office. Then a deputy clerk came out to write down the final vote tally.

“She looked at the paper and went, ‘Oh!’ And I thought, ‘Oh, goodness, what does that mean?’” said Bever.

The final tally: Bever, 986 votes; Wulff, 985 votes.

“I think you could’ve heard a pin drop in that room,” said Bever.

Fayette County Clerk Dawn Hughes said she was so focused on running numbers the tally didn’t register with her at first. It was only when she took another look at the numbers that she realized what had happened.

“I was amazed that it was one vote,” Hughes said. “I did reach out to some of the other clerks that I’m friends with, and they couldn’t believe how close it was, too.”

Wulff, a longtime Connersville resident and a three-term county council member, said he’s seen elections go to recounts, but he’s not sure if he’s seen one this close.

“I wasn’t upset. I thought it was, it wasn’t funny, but it was like a wake-up call,” Wulff said. “One vote makes a heck of a difference.”

Hughes said there are no outstanding ballots left to count, so the tally is final unless Wulff requests a recount. Wulff said he hasn’t yet decided if he wants to do so.

Like elsewhere in Indiana, turnout in Fayette County’s primary was low. Hughes said about 16.5% of her county’s voters cast ballots. Bever said she doesn’t blame the low turnout for the result, but she wonders who cast the 986th ballot in her favor. She said she knows several people who voted for the first time on May 7.

Bever, Wulff, and Hughes all said the result shows how much power one person’s vote can have in an election. Bever and Wulff both said they wonder if they could have campaigned harder to get more people to the polls. Bever said people should take their right to vote seriously.

“Make it a priority,” Bever said. “Put it on your calendar or on your phone or whatever you need to do to make it happen. And consider it to be not just a privilege, but an essential thing to do if you really want to see things happen and change in your community.”

Wulff said something similar.

“Get out and vote,” Wulff said. “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.”

Hughes said several people arrived at the polls on primary day only to find out they weren’t registered to vote. She said now is the time to check your voter registration. Registration is open through the Secretary of State’s website. Those who are not registered can register to vote in the general election beginning on May 21. That can also be done online, through a Bureau of Motor Vehicles license office, or through the county clerk.