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Some ballots counted twice
Discovery raises further doubt about close treasurer race

Staff writer   The News-Messenger   16 November 2004

Sandusky County elections officials discovered some ballots in the Nov. 2 election were counted twice.

The finding further emphasizes the fact that the 49-vote lead Republican challenger Irma Celestino has over Democratic incumbent Anna Senior isn't the final word. That race will be decided when provisional, military or remade ballots are counted and the official count is taken Thursday. It is not known how much of an impact it might have had on any other unofficial count.

Barb Tuckerman, director of the Sandusky County Board of Elections, said when she reviewed election information Nov. 8 she discovered the mistake.

"Clyde had 131 percent voting," Tuckerman said. "That's not possible. I knew there was something amiss."

After reviewing the computer discs used to store precinct tallies, officials came to the conclusion that some ballots in nine precincts were counted twice.

The mistake may have occurred when counted ballots were stacked with those waiting to be counted, Tuckerman said.

Senior said she learned about the mishap when she stopped by the office to pick up a cell phone she'd left there.

"I was surprised, but I know they'll get it fixed and recounted," said Senior who agreed the election is too close to call. "It just depends on the precincts. There is no way to know."

The double counting creates a situation that can't be solved until questions are answered.

"That doesn't mean by itself that that changes the election, but it's not improbable," Juan Bes, an assistant professor in the Department of Math and Statistics at Bowling Green State University, said of the double-counted ballots. "One would need more information."

Among the data needed is how many ballots were counted twice and how many of those votes went to either candidate. If a larger percentage of the double counted votes are Celestino's, the correction could erase her lead. If more of them are for Senior, that would solidify Celestino's position.

Tuckerman said the Secretary of State's office advised against investigating how many twice-counted ballots are included in the election's unofficial results and instead suggested the local board focus on determining the official election results.

Other variables will come into play this week.

Among those waiting to be counted are 58 ballots that were torn, damaged, had stray marks or where voters did not follow instructions, including cases where ovals were not only colored in but also circled. Elections board members today will remake those damaged ballots so they can be fed through the machines. Three military ballots and several hundred provisional ballots are also uncounted.

Of the 713 provisional ballots cast, Tuckerman said 626 will be counted. Many of the 87 whose votes were disqualified had their registrations purged for not voting for several years, Tuckerman said. Others were registered in other states or had never registered.

This morning, the board met to officially decide which ballots cannot be counted and to remake ballots.

Ballots will be run through the machines Wednesday and those results will be saved on computer discs. They will be tallied at a 2:30 p.m. Thursday board of elections meeting.

Senior could be officially unseated, but said she's been going to school with the hopes of opening a home-based business should she not be relected.

"This is a plan I've had for a while in case things didn't go well," Senior said. "You can't always depend on an election."

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