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W.Va. judge race tightens

August 01, 2000

W.Va. judge race tightens



By ANDREW SCHOTZ / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Gray Silver III's lead over David Camilletti in their Circuit Court judge race tightened Tuesday as the Berkeley County Commissioners threw out five votes for Silver and two votes for Camilletti.

Silver now leads Camilletti by 34 votes. They are still vying for the Democratic nomination, nearly three months after the May 9 primary. The winner will not have a Republican opponent in the November General Election.

The Berkeley County Commissioners are presiding over an election contest hearing requested by Camilletti, whose deficit increased from 15 votes to 39 votes after a canvass in May and a recount in June.

Camilletti has cited numerous improprieties in ballots and procedures in virtually every Berkeley precinct.

The 10 ballots rejected Tuesday - three were votes for third-place finisher Patrick Henry - were missing the signatures of poll clerks. West Virginia election law states that both clerks must sign a ballot for it to count.

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The commissioners discarded 10 other ballots for the same reason on Monday, when Camilletti knocked two votes off Silver's lead.

After Tuesday, Silver had 3,834 votes from the three Eastern Panhandle counties, while Camilletti had 3,800.

Also on Monday, nine uncounted and unopened absentee ballots - six Democratic and three Republican - from precinct 2 were uncovered in a bag. Those ballots were left uncounted because the deadline to open them passed.

In the first two days of the quasi-judicial contest hearing at the Berkeley County Courthouse, there has been great scrutiny of election materials and practices. Poll workers and county officials have testified about their actions during and after the primary.

The commissioners and commission attorney Norwood Bentley III - along with Silver, Camilletti and their attorneys - have re-examined ballots, poll slips, ballot slips and other materials in 11 of the county's 46 precincts.

Much of Tuesday afternoon was spent looking at precinct 5. The number of ballots there was greater than the number of ballot slips and poll slips, which are records that someone has received a ballot and turned it in.

County employee Duane Foltz spent a lot of time rummaging through boxes of loose ballots to find numbered unused ballots, which the commissioners then counted. The commissioners came up six ballots short of what they were supposed to have for the precinct, but the participants in the hearing decided to move on.

A 12-hour hearing session, with lunch and dinner breaks, is scheduled for today. According to state law, the deadline for the County Commissioners to complete the contest and render a decision is next week.

The commissioners' decision can be appealed to Circuit Court. Camilletti has said the case will probably reach the state's top court after that.

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