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Berkeley recount moves forward

June 05, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - After two days of recounting ballots in a tight Circuit Court Democratic primary, the Berkeley County Commissioners still have 19 precincts out of 46 to go.

The commissioners are meeting again this morning and hope to finish the recount today.

Gray Silver III has a 31-vote lead over David Camilletti. Both are hoping to earn the new judgeship in the 23rd Circuit, which covers Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties.

The recount in Berkeley County, which Camilletti requested, began on Friday, when 11 precincts were checked. Another 16 precincts were recounted Monday.

"It's wide open," Camilletti said of the race after Monday's session. "There has been every indication of ballots that can be challenged for cause."

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Silver has 3,838 votes to Camilletti's 3,807. Patrick Henry ran a distant third.

The winner will earn the judge's seat because there is no Republican opponent in the fall.

Camilletti handily won Jefferson County in the May 9 primary. He narrowly lost Morgan County, and asked for a recount there, but the vote margin did not change.

After what is apparently the first recount in Berkeley County in 16 years, Camilletti can contest the results within 45 days of the vote, according to election law. A judicial-style hearing would be held in front of the County Commission, the law states.

The County Commission's decision could be appealed to the Circuit Court.

In Berkeley County, which uses computer ballots, Camilletti had the choice of conducting the recount with the same machine used on the night of the primary or having the ballots counted by hand.

Camilletti chose the latter. He said the main reason is the expense, which, by law, he must cover if he does not pull ahead of Silver after the recount.

Commissioner Robert Burkhart said it costs the county $1,000 a day to rent the vote-counting computer, $750 a day to pay someone to operate it, and a one-time fee of $500 to program it.

For a hand count, it costs a total of $31.60 an hour for three county workers to tally votes, according to County Clerk John Small. The commissioners also counted votes but do not receive extra pay.

Burkhart said it also costs $65 a day for a court reporter, plus a $3-per-page fee for a transcript.

Election law also allows candidates asking for the recount to halt it after any precinct recount, if they feel they are ahead and would win. However, the other candidate can reserve the right to have the recount continue.

Camilletti said Monday afternoon that he will not stop the Berkeley recount in the middle because Silver won almost every precinct in the county. Instead, Camilletti is hoping he can make up votes in several precincts and pull closer to Silver.

As the Berkeley County Commissioners called out the ballot numbers and three county employees tallied the votes on Monday, Camilletti and Silver sat side by side, taking their own notes on yellow legal pads.

The commissioners noted each ballot that had either one or no signatures from poll clerks. Those ballots were counted.

State election law says ballots must be signed by both poll clerks. However, the secretary of state's office advised Berkeley to count those with missing signatures - at least until the election is contested. They can then be rejected.

In Jefferson County, the County Commissioners did not count ballots missing signatures.

During the recount, the Berkeley commissioners also pointed out ballots where no Circuit Court candidate or more than one candidate was selected. If more than one candidate was chosen, the commissioners did not count the ballot.

As the commissioners read ballot numbers aloud, Camilletti's and Silver's representatives examined each ballot over their shoulders. Silver was assisted by his cousin, Clarence E. "CEM" Martin III. Camilletti's wife, Sandy, helped her husband.

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