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More ballots to be counted in W.Va. judge race

August 30, 2000

More ballots to be counted in W.Va. judge race



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg,


MARTINSBURG, W. Va. - The Berkeley County Commissioners have set aside up to five days starting Friday to count more ballots in preparation for a court hearing Sept. 13 over a disputed election for Circuit Court judge.

Visiting Circuit Court Judge Alan D. Moats of Taylor County told the county's attorney Wednesday he wants the commissioners to count by Sept. 8 all ballots that were printed but not used in the May election for a new Circuit Court judge. Attorney Gray Silver, III appeared to finish ahead of attorney David Camilletti, but the race was so close, Camilletti challenged it.

The dispute ended up before the three County Commissioners, who spent four days in July and August going over ballots. They found Silver had finished ahead of Camilletti. But Camilletti alleged irregularities occurred in the handling of the ballots and has challenged the election. Moats' directive to the commissioners came during a teleconference call among the attorneys Thursday.

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"Camilletti raised an issue about where all the ballots were," said Norwood Bentley, III, attorney for the County Commissioners. "So the judge wants all the unvoted ballots counted so they can try to reconcile that to the number of ballots in each precinct."

"The judge wants things in a more clear light," said Douglas S. Rockwell of Charles Town, W.Va., Silver's attorney. "So he wants all the unused ballots counted so they can be reading for the hearing and not have to waste another week waiting to count them."

"The judge just wants them to do the job that should have been done election night," said Camilletti's attorney Rick Staton of Mullens, W.Va. He called the process of handling the ballots "sloppy," both on election night and afterwards. The process was so bad that the outcome cannot be trusted, Staton said.

"There were egregious errors," he said. Nine are alleged in court documents. They include allegations that ballots were counted without the required signatures of two poll workers, the unused ballots were not counted and that the lists of ballots cast did not match the actual number of ballots turned in from a precinct.

"There were mistakes, clearly," Bentley said. "There were things done or not done that should have been done. But they were technical violations that didn't cause the election to change. There is no indication that anything was done that was fraudulent or affected the outcome. They have to prove that there was intent or that something happened that purposefully affected the election." Staton disputed that point.

But Rockwell said, "There clearly were procedures implemented at the courthouse that could have been improved. But I don't think there is sufficient reason to throw this election out."

Commission Chairman D. Wayne Dunham said he is disappointed they have to spend more time on this.

"It's exhausting, but if the judge says we have to do it, we have to do it," Dunham said. The county must absorb attorney fees and recording costs associated with the recount, he said.

He said the situation is frustrating, but added the commissioners probably wouldn't be in this position if the ballots had been handled correctly from the beginning.

"Something has got to change so future commissions don't go through this," he said.

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