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Judge candidate to seek recount

May 16, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - David Camilletti, who trails Gray Silver III by 31 votes in the race for a Circuit Court judge seat, plans to ask today for a recount of the ballots in all three Eastern Panhandle counties.

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Camilletti discussed the idea with family and campaign advisors on Tuesday before announcing his decision.

Today is the deadline for candidates to seek a recount.

The Berkeley County Commission was to meet this morning to certify the results of last Tuesday's primary. According to County Clerk John Small, there are no more ballots to count.

The Jefferson County Commission was scheduled to certify county results at its weekly meeting on Thursday, according to County Clerk John Ott.

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If Silver holds on to his narrow lead over Camilletti for the Democratic nomination, he will be assured the seat, as there is no Republican opposition in the fall.

Silver finished with 3,838 votes to Camilletti's 3,807. Patrick Henry was third with 2,195.

The 23rd Circuit covers Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties. The new seat is the fourth in the circuit. Incumbents ran unopposed for the other three seats.

Camilletti will be charged $300 for each recount, plus the costs of conducting the recount, assuming Silver remains the winner, according to Deputy Secretary of State Mary Ratliff.

If Camilletti wins after the recount, he will not be charged, she said.

Camilletti has questioned an inconsistency in the counting of ballots.

West Virginia state law requires that every ballot be signed by both poll clerks at each voting site. In some cases, one or both signatures were missing from ballots in last week's primary.

In Berkeley County, those ballots were counted.

However, in Jefferson County, about 20 ballots were thrown out because they were missing signatures, according to Ott. He said the law was clear that they had to be rejected.

Actually, ballots missing poll clerks' signatures should be counted on primary night, during the follow-up canvass and during a recount, Ratliff said.

After all three of those actions, a candidate can then contest ballots missing signatures, and they can then be dismissed, she said.

Ratliff cited a 1985 court ruling involving ballots without signatures in Cabell County. "Only after the recount can they be excluded," she said.

The primary tally, the canvass and the recount are considered administrative proceedings, but the final contest of ballots is a judicial matter, in which arguments can be made and evidence introduced, Ratliff said.

A county commission's decision on contested ballots can be appealed to the Circuit Court.

Jefferson County, by excluding ballots during the canvass instead of letting the county commission rule on them later, at the request of a candidate, "changed the onus" of who initiates a challenge, Ratliff said.

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