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Camilletti requests vote recount

May 23, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - For the first time since switching to computer-tallied ballots about 12 years ago, Berkeley County has a vote recount on its hands.

Circuit Court judge candidate David Camilletti on Tuesday asked Berkeley County for another count of the ballots cast in the May 9 Democratic primary.

Gray Silver III is ahead of Camilletti by 31 votes with all ballots tallied in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties, which make up the circuit. Camilletti has said his deficit is slim enough that a recount could make a difference.

County Clerk John Small said the County Commissioners will discuss the recount when they meet on Thursday. No date has been set for the new count.

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Small said the recount could take "a couple of days." Punch cards will again be run through the computerized counter that tallied votes on the night of the primary, he said.

Camilletti said earlier this week that it may take a hearing in front of the state's Supreme Court of Appeals to resolve the primary. He vowed to take the matter "as far as is necessary to show that there was no impropriety in the election."

Since the primary, the Berkeley County Commissioners have met several times to tally absentee ballots and to check, by hand, two random precincts to ensure that results were accurate. They finished their canvass on Monday, which gave Camilletti until today to seek a recount.

State law says that the County Commission has until Thursday afternoon to notify Silver of the recount and where and when it will be held. It also says that the recount must be held at least three days after the notice is served.

Camilletti has the option, after the recount, of contesting the primary, according to state law. The deadline is 45 days after the vote was held.

Normally, the County Commissioners rule on contests in which the legality of ballots cast is challenged. Their decision can be appealed to Circuit Court, then the Supreme Court of Appeals, election law states.

There are exceptions, however, for state offices.

When an election or primary for a Circuit Court judge seat is contested, a special court of three people is set up, according to election law. One member is chosen by the contestant (Camilletti), one by the contestee (Silver) and one by the governor, the law states.

That body's decision can be appealed directly to the Supreme Court of Appeals.

The last recount in Berkeley County was in 1984, when current Commissioner John Wright won a close primary battle, according to Small and the county commissioners.

Paper ballots were in use then. Small said the county switched over around 1988.

Morgan County, which uses paper ballots, is expected to recount votes there on Thursday. Camilletti requested a recount in Morgan County, which he lost, 502 to 466, but did not ask for one in Jefferson County, which he won handily, 2,092 to 1,069.

Silver captured Berkeley County, 2,267 to 1,249.

Patrick Henry, the other Democratic candidate, finished third overall.

The new judge seat in the 23rd Circuit is the fourth. The Democratic primary winner will earn the position because the Republicans are not fielding a candidate in the fall. The term is eight years.

The three incumbent judges in the circuit are running unopposed.

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