MOUNDSVILLE - Jason "Jake" Padlow failed in his bid for re-election as a Marshall County commissioner, according to the official vote canvass that concluded Wednesday, but he narrowed the gap between himself and Republican Robert Miller Jr. by picking up 10 additional votes.
Despite his claims this week that the integrity of the election had been compromised, neither Padlow nor his attorney, Dan Guida, would comment Wednesday on whether they will seek a recount or contest the results of the election in court.
The canvass revealed incumbent Democrat Padlow received 6,148 votes, while Miller earned 6,218 to capture the seat. Just 70 votes, or 0.56 percent of the total, separated the two in the final tally. That result differs from vote totals announced Nov. 6, which showed Padlow leading by 61 votes - 4,797 to 4,736.
Photo by Jennifer Compston-Strough
Marshall County Clerk’s Office employees Melanie Madden, left, and Winnie (Reilly) Turner tabulate election results at the end of this week’s vote canvass while Commissioner Brian Schambach observes.
Miller said he was pleased about his victory and appreciated the vote of confidence he had received. He also commended Padlow for calling to congratulate him.
"I would like to thank Commissioner Padlow for his call on Saturday," Miller said. "It was very gracious of him.
"I would also like to thank the public for their support. It was nice to be embraced by the community," he added. "I hope I can at least live up to their expectations."
County Clerk Jan Pest and her staff discovered an error in the unofficial report late last week, when it was determined 2,912 absentee and early votes had been overlooked as election night totals were released. Padlow was notified of the problem Saturday and learned that updated totals showed him losing to Miller by 80 votes.
Padlow has asserted that seals on ballot bags were broken Saturday without county commissioners, ballot commissioners or the prosecutor present. Pest confirmed sealed bags containing PEBs, or personal electronic ballots, for each precinct in the county were opened Friday so "flash card" memory from voting machines could be retrieved from them to run a new report prior to the canvass.
Separate bags containing the rolls of paper that record each keystroke made on a voting machine were brought to the commission room with their seals still in place as the canvass started Tuesday. Timothy G. Leach, assistant general counsel for the West Virginia Office of the Secretary of State who was present for the canvass, said this "paper trail" is considered to be the official record of the vote.
Pest said she and Deputy Clerk Winnie (Reilly) Turner returned to the office Saturday in an attempt to resolve the error that was discovered Friday. She said when the bags were opened Friday, several staff members and members of the public were present.
During the vote canvass, Commissioners Don Mason and Brian Schambach accepted 96 provisional votes and 16 absentee ballots that were post-marked by Nov. 6 or received Nov. 7.
Padlow recused himself from the canvass, which lasted from 10:30 a.m. until about 11:40 p.m. Tuesday and resumed at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Of the total 112 provisional and absentee ballots accepted, 105 were added to the total results Wednesday, as Pest said seven provisional voters had been allowed to vote regular ballots at the precincts on Election Day even though the paperwork designating them provisional was completed.
Pest said those seven ballots were counted with the Election Day totals released Nov. 6.
The canvass was completed and the vote totals declared at 6:20 p.m. Wednesday.
Pest said candidates have 48 hours from the time of the declaration to request a recount. All such requests - and a $300 bond - must be received in the clerk's office by 6:20 p.m. Friday.
Meanwhile, Democrat David Sidiropolis received 5,961 votes but lost a three-way race for two seats in the House of Delegates. Incumbent Democrat Mike Ferro earned 7,971 votes, and Republican David Evans 6,264. Just 1.5 percent, or 303 votes, separated Sidiropolis and Evans in the contest.
Attorney George Sidiropolis represented his brother David Sidiropolis during the canvass and submitted a Freedom of Information Act request regarding the election results to Pest.
The brothers, like Padlow, expressed concerns over whether the election night error was properly corrected.
"Preserving the integrity of our elections is fundamental to our Democracy," George Sidiropolis said late Wednesday. "The voters and candidates were informed that nearly 3,000 votes were counted behind closed doors and that the seals guarding the election results were broken.
"I attended the canvas hoping that the commission would provide answers to basic questions about how this apparent violation of the law was allowed to occur, but my questions were met with indifference and hostility," he continued. "It is my hope that Marshall County voters will receive an explanation that restores the public's confidence in the election results."
Following the canvass, the commission race was the only question on the ballot to see its results change.