Concerns from 2010, 2011 elections prompt move

COLUMBIA, 3/14/13 (Beat Byte) -- Controversy from the 2010 and 2011 Columbia City Council races may prompt candidates in the April 2 election to post vote count watchers in the office of Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren.

But anyone interested in watching Noren and her staff tally the vote needs to sign up now.
Count watchers are commonplace during partisan elections, but were rarely seen locally in non-partisan elections such as City Council and School Board until the race between Helen Anthony and Glen Ehrhardt
Questions about possible vote counting irregularities prompted Anthony and the League of Women Voters (LWV) to send ballot watchers to Noren's office on election eve in April 2011
Anthony and Ehrhardt squared off in a contentious race for the 5th Ward City Council seat.  Anthony, who won the race despite pundits predicting a loss, was a favorite of progressive voters, while Ehrhardt received the Columbia Chamber of Commerce endorsement.

This year, progressive candidates include Sid Sullivan in the Mayoral race and Karl Skala in a 3rd Ward rematch.  Incumbent Councilmen Daryl Dudley, Gary Kespohl, and Mayor Bob McDavid will doubtless be Chamber endorsees.
During the Ehrhard/Anthony race, rumors surfaced that Noren was adding individual vote tallies from her staff alone and out of sight of public viewing.   She would then allegedly post her results online. 
Fueling the rumors:  an hour-long delay that put Columbia behind the rest of the state for election eve vote tallying in April 2010.  
Fourth Ward Council candidate Tracy Greever-Rice and Skala, an incumbent 3rd Ward Councilman, had been well ahead of their opponents all night.  But that trend suddenly reversed after the delay. Dudley and Kespohl claimed victory with slender margins.   
Noren, now in her 31st year as Boone County clerk, denied any impropriety.  She invited candidates, proposition advocates, and members of the public to observe. 
"If a member of the public would want to observe the process, we will accommodate as many as possible," she told the Heart Beat in an interview last April. Office renovations include a viewing area for up to 6 people, Noren explained.
Noren reminds candidates that while she's happy to accommodate count watching, they need to contact her at least a week (but preferably sooner) before the scheduled election to arrange the watch.