Keeping Mele On Benwood Council

Benwood City Council members have quite a tangled mess to unsort when they meet next Monday for a special hearing on the municipal election in May.

As we have reported, a mixup on the ballot left Curtis Mele’s name off it. He was running for re-election to his First Ward Council seat. Ballots used the name of the other councilman from that ward, Chuck Terry, even though his term is not up.

Terry received 22 votes. Twenty write-in votes, including some for Mele, were recorded.

Mele is contesting the election. A hearing will be held next week.

Council members should proceed with caution. Simply declaring Mele the winner, though an easy way to address the problem, may not be a good idea. The voters have spoken, after all, albeit with incorrect ballots.

Public officials, including municipal councils, should not be permitted to invalidate elections and declare alternate results, even under the current circumstances.

Obviously, Mele should be kept in his council position. Finding a constitutional way to accomplish that may be difficult – but council members, working with their attorney, have no responsible choice but to do so.