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Dates set for St. Thomas recount hearings to settle Pa. supervisors race

November 21, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Dates have been set for the accumulation and recount hearings that may determine the outcome of the race for St. Thomas Township supervisor between incumbent David C. Ramer and write-in challenger Frank Stearn.

The accumulation hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Dec. 5, in the meeting room of the county commissioners' office, Deputy Chief Clerk Jean Byers said.

Stearn filed a petition Monday with the Franklin County Board of Elections to accumulate write-in votes he received in the Nov. 4 general election. Stearn mailed or handed out stickers to voters in the township's three precincts, but some voters instead chose to write in his name by hand.

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Stearn is asking the board to consolidate all of the votes he received under his correct name and several variations and misspellings of his name. If he is successful in accumulating all the votes, he potentially could receive 593, six more than the 587 tallied by Ramer, according to figures from the official tabulation.

Some of those misspellings include Stern, Sterner and Stearner, and it will be up to the board of elections to determine the intent of the voters.

Three voters from each of the precincts in St. Thomas Township filed petitions Monday in Franklin County Court asking for a recount in the race. While Ramer was not among the registered voters that signed the petitions, his wife was a signer of the petition for the second precinct.

The recount is scheduled for 9 a.m. Dec. 9, in Judge Douglas W. Herman's courtroom, according to the court administrator's office.

"The court has asked us to supply them with two names, one from each party," Byers said. Those two people will do the actual counting of the ballots, but the candidates or their representatives can be on hand to challenge any ballot deemed questionable, Byers said.

It will be up to the judge to make any rulings on challenged ballots, Byers said.

What constitutes a valid vote is set by the state, which in July approved standards for all of the various voting systems used in Pennsylvania. In Franklin County, optical readers are used to count paper ballots and the standards for that system were used in the official tabulation following the Nov. 4 vote, Byers said.

On the ballots used in the county, for example, voters are required to fill in the oval to the left of the candidate's name. In the case of write-ins, the voter still has to fill in the oval before writing in the name of the candidate or using a sticker, Byers said.

Failing to blacken the oval results in the vote not being counted, according to the state standards.

If the voter made a check or "X" in the oval, but the optical reader did not pick it up, the vote is counted during the official tabulation, Byers said. If the mark falls completely out of the oval, the vote is not counted, she said.

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