Rock, Fleagle petition for write-in recount

May 31, 2006|by DON AINES


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. Determining whose name, if anyone's, will appear on the Nov. 7 ballot as the Democratic nominee for the 90th District of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives is going to be more than a math problem for both the Franklin County Election Board and the Court of Common Pleas.

Patrick E. Fleagle, 55, of Waynesboro, Pa., and Todd Rock, 42, of Mont Alto, Pa., filed petitions Tuesday with the county to cumulate votes under variations and misspellings of their names and a petition on Rock's behalf was filed for a recount of eight of the 36 precincts within the district. According to the candidates' cumulation petitions, just two votes separate them.

Rock won the Republican nomination by 111 votes in the May 16 primary, according to election results. No Democrat ran in the primary, however, and the two Republicans are vying for that nomination based on write-in votes.


Fleagle's petition listed 339 write-in votes under 13 variants of the nine-term incumbent's name that he wants consolidated. Rock's petition lists 337 votes under 10 variations.

For either candidate to secure the nomination, the election board would have to certify at least 300 write-in votes, the same as the number of signatures required for a petitioning candidate to get his name on a primary ballot in a state House race, said county Deputy Chief Clerk Jean Byers.

For the board of elections, made up of county Commissioners G. Warren Elliott, Bob Thomas and Cheryl Plummer, the issue is more complicated than adding up columns of names.

For example, Rock is petitioning to consolidate 53 write-in votes for "Rock" and four for "Mr. Rock" in a district where Rock is a common name and several people with that last name have been or are officeholders. One vote he is asking for in his total is for that of a registered voter with the same last name.

There also is a notation on the petition asking the board to consider "any and all other not tabulated votes and/or mistabulated votes, including votes the Election Board may award the candidate for this seat, but cast under 9th Congressional District, U.S. Congress."

There was no Democratic candidate for that seat, now held by Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster.

On Fleagle's petition are five votes for "Fleagle," also a common name, as well as votes for "Flegel," "Flengle" and "Pate Fegle."

Elliott would not speculate on how the election board would rule on the use of last names, misspellings or other variations.

"Our decision will be based on the thoroughness of the testimony presented by the candidates and the advice of counsel," he said. A tentative hearing date was set for Wednesday, June 7, but Byers said that will depend on the court schedule for the recount petition filed by Rock's parents, Nelson and Lena Rock, and Leland H. Lemley.

The petition requests a recount of the ballot boxes for Guilford Township Two and Three; Waynesboro Third Ward, Third District; Waynesboro First Ward, Second District; Washington Township Two and Five; and Quincy One.

"We think there is actually evidence of some mistakes made with precinct (write-in tally) sheets not matching the county's" write-in totals, said Clinton Barkdoll, an attorney listed as Rock's counsel on the cumulation petition.

Under state election law, Barkdoll said the ballot boxes have to be opened within four months of the primary, which would be no later than Sept. 16.

Writing in a candidate's name is not just a matter of spelling it out on a ballot. State standards for optically scanned paper ballots, such as those used in Franklin County, requires the oval next to the name be blackened in order for the vote to be counted, Byers said.

That was the standard applied by a county judge in a recount of the November 2003 St. Thomas Township Board of Supervisors race between incumbent David Ramer and Frank Stearn, who ran an ultimately successful write-in campaign for the seat, Byers said.

The county used a new tabulating system with ballot counters at each precinct in the primary. The machines were programmed to read ovals next to write-ins and separate those ballots into a different compartment within the ballot box.

Those write-ins were then tabulated by hand at each precinct by poll workers.

Names to consider for consoliidation

These are the variations on the candidates' names that the Franklin County Election Board will have to consider for consolidation in the write-in contest for the 90th District Democratic nomination to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives:

Patrick E. Fleagle 184 Todd Rock 244

Pat Fleagle 51 Rock 53

Fleagle 5 Todd A. Rock 28

Patrick Fleagal 1 Rock, T. 1

Pete Fleagle 1 Mr. Rock 4

Patrick Fleagle 84 T. Rock 3

Flegel 1 Tod Rock 1

Pat E. Fleagle 1 Dodd Rock 1

Pat (Patrick) Fleagle 1 Rock, Todd 1

P. Fleagle 5 David Rock 1

Patric E. Fleagle 1

Pate Fegle 1

Flengle 1

Totals 339 337

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