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W.Va. judge race continues to tighten

August 02, 2000

W.Va. judge race continues to tighten



By ANDREW SCHOTZ / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Thirteen more ballots were thrown out in the 23rd Circuit judicial primary Wednesday, leaving David Camilletti 25 votes behind Gray Silver III.

Eleven of the eliminated ballots were cast for Silver and two for Camilletti, so nine votes were cut from Silver's lead.

"I'm happy with that right now," Camilletti said.

The Berkeley County Commissioners have been presiding over a hearing that lasted all day Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The commissioners will meet with Silver, Camilletti and their attorneys again today and expect to review the final eight of Berkeley County's 46 precincts.

Camilletti and Silver are battling for the Democratic nomination. There has been a canvass and a recount since the May 9 primary.

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There is no Republican candidate for the judgeship, which is a new position starting next year.

The contest hearing, which Camilletti called for, is a judicial-style review in which the merits of individual ballots are being decided.

The county's election practices also have been scrutinized.

On a few occasions, unused ballots have been summoned so that discrepancies in ballot counts could be reconciled. In each case, a county employee has fished through boxes of loose ballots.

So far, the commissioners have invalidated 33 cast ballots because they lacked signatures of poll clerks. West Virginia election law states that both clerks at a precinct have to sign a ballot for it to be counted. The secretary of state's office has advised that those ballots should be counted up until a contest hearing, when they can be rejected.

The County Commission, however, has allowed absentee ballots and challenged ballots to be counted. Silver and his attorney, Douglas Rockwell, contend that those ballots do not need poll clerks' signatures, but Camilletti and his attorney, W. Richard Staton, disagree and have filed objections.

According to state law, the deadline for the Berkeley County Commission to wrap up the contest hearing and render a verdict on ballots is Monday.

It took the commissioners and the participants Monday and Tuesday to consider allegations in the first 11 districts. But they got through 27 precincts on Wednesday alone.

The commission's decision can be appealed to Circuit Court.

Camilletti has said the matter will likely continue on to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.

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