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Council tie still a tie in Charles Town

June 01, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The man whose ballot could decide last week's tied Charles Town City Council race has demanded that his vote not be counted.

The city's canvassing board honored the request on Thursday, meaning the tie between incumbent Lacie Mumaw and challenger Michael Slover will carry into next week. Each received 253 votes in the May 24 city election.

Three other council elections were held that day, two of them contested.

If neither Mumaw nor Slover requests a recount or if a recount doesn't change the tie, the other seven council members will pick a winner, City Clerk Joe Cosentini said.

Mayor Peggy Smith and council members who weren't part of the election met as a canvassing board Thursday to consider four remaining provisional ballots in the race between Mumaw and Slover.

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The board agreed that three of the four voters were correctly rejected at the polls because they live outside the city limits. Their provisional ballots were not opened.

The fourth and final unopened ballot belonged to Agustin Segura, according to Cosentini.

Segura filled out a provisional ballot on Election Day because he was told his registration was suspended. However, "it was an error by the county clerk's office," Cosentini said.

With just one unopened ballot left Thursday, though, the secrecy meant to protect voting was "compromised," he said.

In a letter Cosentini read aloud, Segura directed the canvassing board not to open his ballot "under any circumstances."

Segura could not be reached for comment. The only phone number listed for a Segura family in Charles Town was not working.

City officials talked after the meeting about the strange situation that was unfolding. Cosentini said no one could remember there ever being a tie in a city election, going back many years.

The delay has been draining, said Slover, who attended the meeting.

"This was supposed to be over a week ago ...," he said. "It's a very exhausting procedure, emotionally and physically."

Slover, an economist in Washington, D.C., said he was disappointed that Segura wouldn't let his vote be counted, which, in effect, throws off the true result of the election.

Mumaw could not be reached for comment at home Thursday night.

The candidates have 48 hours, until Monday, when the canvassing board meets next, to ask for a recount. Slover said he expects that at least one candidate will do so, but he wouldn't say if it will be him.

If Mumaw or Slover asks for a recount, the other candidate will be notified within 24 hours, Cosentini said. The recount then will be held at least three days after the notification is made.

If there is still a tie after the recount, or if neither candidate asks for one, the three new council members and four current council members will vote on a winner at their next meeting, Cosentini said.

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