Three weeks of uncertainty over who will succeed retiring Wheeling Councilman Vernon Seals will come to an end Tuesday.
A recount to determine whether Ken Imer's unofficial two-vote victory over Charlie Ballouz in the 2nd Ward council race will stand has been set for 9 a.m. Tuesday in the former sheriff's tax office on the first floor of the City-County Building, Ohio County commissioners announced Wednesday. Ballouz called for the recount last week after election night totals showed Imer winning 175 votes to 173 and the May 15 vote canvass failed to alter those tallies.
"I'm just waiting for it to be over ... so I can prepare to go to work with the other members of council," Imer said Wednesday.
However, Imer doesn't fault Ballouz for going to the lengths he has to make sure the original count was accurate.
"If the shoe was on the other foot, Charlie's not doing anything different than I would do," he said. "I don't blame him at all."
Ballouz, who has run for municipal office eight times since 1971, said he didn't want to look back on the election wondering if he could have done something different. But he said whether he wins or loses, there's an important lesson to be learned from the process.
"Every vote counts, and you've got to get out and vote if you want change," he said.
County Elections Coordinator Toni Chieffalo said two teams of four people will hand count the more than 700 ballots cast in the 2nd Ward race, with two people from each team counting and the other two tallying. That group, mostly composed of those who worked the polls during early voting, will include three Republicans, three Democrats and two Independents.
Chieffalo expects the process to take most of the day, and she noted the most time-consuming part of the process will be examining the early voting rolls. Although the recount is limited to the five precincts within the 2nd Ward, each of the 1,325 ballots cast at the courthouse during the early voting period must be reviewed to see if it came from one of those precincts.
A quorum of the county commission must be present to open the recount proceedings. Others expected to oversee the process are Chieffalo, Wheeling City Clerk Janice Jones, and a representative from Casto-Harris, the Spencer, W.Va., firm which produces ballots for all 55 Mountain State counties.
Chieffalo said the recount is open to the public, but she asks anyone who attends to be respectful of the process by remaining as quiet as possible.
Others receiving votes in the Ward 2 race were Aaron T. Wilkinson, 114; Alex Coogan, 99; and Tony Domenick and Desmond Lekanudos, with 70 each, and two write-in candidates.
Ballouz filed papers seeking the recount on May 16, and was required to post a $25 bond to initiate the process. He will have to pay that amount if the recount fails to change the race's outcome.