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St. Thomas vote recount not completed

December 10, 2003|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A winner still has not been determined in the race for St. Thomas (Pa.) Township supervisor between incumbent David C. Ramer and write-in challenger Frank Stearn.

Votes from two of the three election districts in the township were recounted Tuesday in Judge Douglas W. Herman's courtroom in the Franklin County Courthouse.

The recount was halted at 2 p.m. because one of the candidate's attorneys had to leave and because the courtroom no longer was available. The proceedings will resume Monday at 9 a.m.

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Last Friday, the Franklin County Board of Elections unanimously granted Stearn's request to accumulate all the votes under Stearn's name, and several of its variations and misspellings.

He potentially could receive 593 votes in a recount, which would be six more than the 587 tallied by Ramer, according to figures counted during the official tabulation in November.

On Tuesday morning, three large metal ballot boxes were wheeled into the courtroom on a hand truck. Candidates and their attorneys stood around the table while County Purchasing Director Matthew Earl and Franklin County Treasurer Chris Bender counted the paper ballots by hand.

Most of the votes passed quickly through the counters' hands. Some were determined to be "no votes" if they were not marked on either side. Others were challenged by either Patrick Redding, Ramer's attorney, or John Broujos, Stearn's attorney, and were set aside without being recorded on the tally sheets. Thirteen votes were challenged for St. Thomas District 1, and 62 for St. Thomas 2.

Redding challenged those ballots with Stearn's name sticker placed over Ramer's name and those marked "straight Republican."

Ramer ran on both the Republican and Democratic tickets.

During a brief break between counting the first and second ballot boxes, Redding explained the process to onlookers.

"The election code is unclear in certain circumstances," he said. "That's why we have courts and a judge. The votes that have no objections will be sealed up. On those we challenge, we look at case law and come up with reasons why the objection should be upheld by the court. Stearn's attorney will do the same.

"The judge will look at them, research the law and make a ruling on each ballot. Then he will make a decision on how the election goes. It could go to Commonwealth Court," Redding said.

County Solicitor Welton J. Fischer oversaw the recount.

What qualifies as a valid vote is set by the state, which in July approved standards for all of the 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, said Jean Byers, deputy chief clerk for Franklin County.

Herman said he may address some of the challenged ballots Monday when the recount resumes.

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