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Tabb hanging on by two votes

May 10, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - With two votes separating the two candidates, the outcome of Tuesday's Democratic primary election for West Virginia's 55th District House of Delegates seat remained up in the air Wednesday.

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A dozen or so challenged votes and at least 17 absentee ballots that have not been counted could mean the difference between incumbent John Doyle staying in the Legislature or being replaced by Bob Tabb of Kearneysville, W.Va., according to county election officials.

As ballots were counted Tuesday night, the totals for Tabb and Doyle were close. With all precincts reporting, Tabb had a two-vote lead over Doyle.

The winner of the Democratic primary will have no Republican challenger in the November general election and will take the 55th House seat.

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The GOP had until Monday to select a candidate to run against the Democratic nominee in the general election but did not name anyone.

The outstanding ballots from Tuesday's Democratic primary are expected to be considered by the Jefferson County Commissioners when they meet as the Board of Canvassers on Friday morning, Jefferson County Clerk John Ott said.

"A lot of people say 'my vote doesn't count.' This proves them wrong," said Tabb, owner of Town and Country Nursery in Kearneysville.

"I haven't won and I haven't lost. I'll just be glad when it's over," said Tabb, who has never held elected office.

Doyle, a five-term member of the House of Delegates and current vice-chairman of the House Finance Committee, said he expected the race to be a close one, but not as close as it was.

"All of this is very exciting," Doyle said Wednesday before heading to Charleston for Legislative interim meetings.

There are typically some challenged ballots in an election, Ott said. Although it will not be known how many challenged ballots there were in Tuesday's election until Friday when the commissioners meet, there could be between 12 and 15, Ott said.

A ballot challenge occurs when someone votes at a precinct other than the one at which he or she is registered, Ott said. Voters can give a variety of reasons for wanting to vote at another precinct, and poll workers must allow the voter to cast the ballot at another precinct if that is what the voter desires, Ott said.

It is up to the Board of Cavassers to determine if the voter presented a valid reason for voting at another precinct, Ott said.

There were 233 absentee ballots filed for the primary election, said Jefferson County Circuit Clerk Patsy Noland.

Most of the absentee ballots were counted with the regular ballots Tuesday night, but 17 Democratic ballots that did not arrive in time to be counted Tuesday night will be counted by the Board of Canvassers Friday, Noland said.

An additional 13 absentee ballots have not been returned, Noland said. Those ballots must be returned to the Circuit Clerk's office by 9 a.m. Friday to be counted, Noland said.

It is typical for some absentee ballots not to be returned, Noland said.

Candidates have the right to request a recount of ballots, but that was more common when ballots were counted by hand, Ott said.

Vote tabulations are now automated.

"I don't see a reason for a recount because the machine doesn't make mistakes," Ott said.

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