Close election races remain tight

The canvass of the Nov. 5 general election on Monday identified two winners in a pair of close races, but state law requires a recount just to make sure.

Lawrence Township resident Kurt Bohlen apparently won election to the Frontier Local Board of Education over Wingett Run resident and former board member Daryl Bowersock by seven votes, while Barlow Township Trustee Richard Best came out with a three-vote victory over fellow incumbent Darren Roddy. But because both margins of victory fell within one-half of 1 percent, the races are subject to a mandatory recount.

And because of that recount, Best isn’t quite ready to consider himself re-elected.

“We won’t know until the third day of December,” he said.

That’s the day the Washington County Board of Elections will meet to go over and certify the recounted results at its office on Davis Avenue. After provisional ballots accepted by the board and absentee ballots postmarked by Nov. 4 but received after Election Day were counted electronically Monday, the board unanimously voted to start the recount on Dec. 2 and meet to consider and certify the results at 3:30 p.m. the following day.

The final, unofficial count released on Election Night had Bohlen and Bowersock separated by just five votes, 738 to 733, trailing Newport resident Todd Collins’ 788 and Gale Depuy II’s 754. The additional ballots counted Monday added half a dozen votes to Bohlen’s total and four to Bowersock’s.

It was the first run for office for Bohlen, who said he’s “ready to get started.”

“I was very surprised it was that close from top to bottom,” he said of the race.

In Barlow Township, Corey Proctor finished with the most votes, 346, to win the first board of trustees seat, while Best received 297 votes to Roddy’s 294. Each of the incumbents picked up six votes in the canvass, preserving Best’s lead.

It’s an outcome neither Best nor Roddy were particularly sweating.

“As far as I’m concerned, if my opponent Darren Roddy wins, I’ll shake his hand and tell him I think he’s a … good man,” said Best, appointed to the seat two years ago after his predecessor passed away. “And I think he’ll do the same.”

In fact, Roddy, who could not be reached for comment Monday, said earlier this month he thought Best deserved to win.

While Best said his feelings wouldn’t be hurt if he lost, he did express some frustration over how long the process is taking.

“If I didn’t win this election, I could already have been finding me another job,” he said.

The canvass cannot begin until 11 business days after the election and must be completed no later than 15 days after, board of elections Director Tara Hupp said. Board member Dennis Sipe said this canvass happened a little later than previous ones – 13 days after the election – because board members had trouble finding a day they would all be available.

“It just took longer to get four of us together,” he said.

Bohlen said the delay was not a big deal to him.

“Don’t take office ’til January anyway,” he said.

Monday’s canvass changed some of the final numbers in other board of education, city and village council and township trustee races, but not enough to alter the outcomes or trigger recounts. Defeated candidates may request recounts in other races, but they could be assessed a $55-per-precinct charge unless they are declared the winner or the recount yields a tally of votes for them 4 percent larger than the original.

The initial recount is not done on all the votes cast in a race. Instead, one precinct is randomly selected by the board. More can be added until the total votes cast in those precincts are at least 5 percent of all the ballots in the race.

Hand recounts will be done of 281 ballots in the Vincent precinct for the Barlow Township race and 599 ballots in the Newport precinct for Frontier. If there is no discrepancy between the hand count and the electronic count, the entire race will be recounted electronically and those results certified by the board. If there is a difference, and it cannot be resolved after three counts, the entire race must be recounted by hand.

Hupp said there have not been significant changes in recent Washington County recounts.

“We’ve been very accurate in our recounts,” she said.