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Published: Tuesday, 11/30/2010

Lucas County to begin 2 election recounts

The Lucas County Board of Elections this afternoon will start its recount of two narrowly decided races — Lucas County Commissioner and the Springfield school district levy — although the outcomes still could face a legal challenge.

State law requires a recount whenever the difference in a race is less than half of 1 percent of the total votes cast.

Democrat Carol Contrada defeated Republican George Sarantou by 191 votes out of nearly 140,000 cast, under the vote certified last week.

Her victory came after the board of elections on Nov. 22 added more than 4,000 provisional ballots that had not been counted, reversing a lead of 1,376 votes that Mr. Sarantou had in the unofficial Nov. 2 count.

The added provisional ballots also reversed the outcome for Springfield's school levy, from losing by 54 votes to winning by the same number. The 3.9-mill levy will raise about $2 million a year — unless the recount changes the outcome.

Mr. Sarantou is considering a legal challenge to the provisional vote count and has hired elections consultant Terry Casey of Columbus to review vote-counting procedures.

“The consultant we hired will conduct an investigation,” Mr. Sarantou said. “We just want to make sure everything was followed according to the law.”

The Sarantou campaign and the Lucas County Republican Party have said that the board of elections hasn't been able to assure them that the provisional ballots were adequately verified.

Mrs. Contrada said she has no objection to Mr. Sarantou pursuing his rights under the election law.

“My thoughts are to make sure the integrity of the votes is protected,” Mrs. Contrada said.

The elections board Monday selected one voting location to recount in the Springfield school district and 10 polling locations to recount countywide in the commissioners' race, to meet the state law's requirement of checking 5 percent of the total vote.

The recount of 11 polling locations will begin at 12:30 p.m. at 1302 Washington St., the board's early vote center. The process could take hours or even days, officials said.

The absence of Patrick Kriner, the chairman of the four-member elections board, from Monday's elections board meeting brought criticism from Lucas County Republican Chairman Jon Stainbrook, who said that as a Republican appointee Mr. Kriner should have been present to look out for Mr. Sarantou's interests.

“He should be there watching the technicalities,” Mr. Stainbrook said.

Mr. Kriner said he was out of town on business. He declined to respond to Mr. Stainbrook's criticism.

Also absent was Democratic board member Ron Rothenbuhler, who said he was absent on business. The only two board members present were Democrat Rita Clark and Republican Ben Marsh.

“There's a 10-day period in which a candidate can legally file a contest of election. It's an option under consideration,” Mr. Casey said.

Provisional ballots are cast by voters whose names do not show up on the list of registered voters in their precinct, either because they have moved or were unable to produce a valid identification. The board of elections is required to verify the registration of each provisional voter.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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