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Recount sought in Williamsport

March 03, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WILLIAMSPORT -- Williamsport mayoral candidate Jeffrey A. Cline and his running mates plan to ask for a recount of the ballots from the town's Monday election after the initial tally showed incumbent Mayor James G. McCleaf II winning by 12 votes.

"We've been bombarded with phone calls wanting to challenge or have a recount," Cline said Tuesday afternoon.

McCleaf's running mates also won their respective races based on the Monday night count, with Anthony T. Drury elected assistant mayor by a 17-vote margin and Joan E. Knode and Timothy W. Fraker winning the two open council seats.

"I've never seen an election this close," town election supervisor C. Lee Butts said Tuesday.

McCleaf, 38, served as a councilman from 2001 to 2005 and has been mayor since 2005. He said Tuesday he and his running mates were eager to get back to business.

"We're just gonna get everybody situated on the council and continue doing what we've been doing, and move forward and promote the town and do the best job we can for the citizens," McCleaf said.

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The push for a recount comes after a nearly four-hour ballot count that wrapped up at about midnight Monday, nearly four hours after the polls closed.

Butts said the length of the count was due to the number of ballots and several partial recounts that were necessary when election board members' tallies didn't agree.

A total of 450 ballots were cast, Butts said.

"When you've got that many ballots to count, it's quite lengthy," he said.

Butts read the ballots and the two other election judges recorded the tallies. Every 20 ballots or so, the recorders read their tallies, and if their totals didn't agree, those ballots were recounted, Butts said.

Cline said the closeness of the race, the length of time it took and the number of partial recounts prompted the recount request. And there were issues with his party's ability to monitor the count, he said.

Cline said he and his running mates, the Citizens First party, had permission to have an observer in the room where the ballots were counted, but that person got sick shortly before the polls closed. The party recruited a replacement observer, who left at about 10 p.m. because of a health problem, so the party was without an observer for the second half of the count.

Cline met with assistant mayor candidate Earle R. Pereschuk and council candidate Bobbi Cole to discuss pursuing a recount.

Butts said he had never faced a request for a complete recount before and would refer the matter to the town's attorney.

Besides the seats filled by the election, the council has two vacancies, which were created when Drury and Pereschuk filed to run for assistant mayor. Both were serving council terms that would not have expired until 2011. Under town policy, council members forfeit their seats when they file to run for another position.

The new council will be responsible for appointing people to fill those seats. McCleaf said he has two people in mind, but wanted to run their names by his running mates and the remaining council member, James Kalbfleisch, before revealing their identities. McCleaf said he would not reappoint Cline or Pereschuk to the council.

Williamsport's mayor and council members serve four-year terms. The mayor is paid $3,500 a year; the assistant mayor, $3,000 a year; and council members, $2,500 a year.

Williamsport election tally



Mayor:

James G. McCleaf II (Independent) - 229

Jeffrey A. Cline (Citizens First) - 217

Assistant mayor:

Anthony T. Drury (Independent) - 232

Earle R. Pereschuk (Citizens First) - 215

Council (top two win seats):

Joan E. Knode (Independent) - 328

Timothy W. Fraker (Independent) - 235

Bobbi Cole (Citizens First) - 222

Total ballots cast: 450

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