MOUNDSVILLE - The controversial election for a Marshall County Commission seat raised questions about West Virginia's recount process that officials addressed Friday.
Incumbent Commissioner Jason "Jake" Padlow, who requested a recount, and victor Robert Miller Jr. each paid a $300 bond as part of the recount process. Many people have questioned why Miller needed to pay the bond, even though it was Padlow who sought the recount.
Marshall County Clerk Jan Pest said because Padlow paid the bond, he could have stopped the recount when he believed he had taken the lead in the race. Had he done so, Miller would have had the right to ask for the recount to continue - but only because he also had paid the bond.
"Every candidate who demands a recount shall be required to furnish bond in a reasonable amount ... to guarantee payment of the costs and the expenses of the recount ... but the amount shall in no case exceed $300," according to West Virginia Code.
Padlow, a Democrat, was declared the winner of the race in unofficial totals released on Nov. 6, election night. He was leading Miller, a Republican, by 61 votes at that point. A few days later, however, election officials discovered 2,912 early and absentee votes had not been added to the ballots cast on Election Day. When the error was corrected, results indicated Miller had an 80-vote lead.
A subsequent vote canvass showed Miller winning by 70 votes. But during the recount requested by Padlow, officials found an additional 114 votes that had been overlooked both on election night and during the canvass. Still, the outcome of the race did not change. Miller was declared the winner with 6,277 votes over Padlow's 6,192.
Jake Glance, spokesman for West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, said paying a bond allows candidates involved in a recount to stop and start the process at various points. He confirmed that a candidate who pays the bond and requests a recount can stop a recount at the conclusion of the counting of any precinct, usually when they believe they have achieved a lead in the race.
As long as another candidate in the race also has paid the bond, he or she can have the recount continue, Glance said. That candidate could then stop the recount at the conclusion of any precinct. At that point, the recount would be halted and neither candidate could have it continue.
But that does not mean that other precincts that voted in the contest would not be counted as part of the total. Glance said any remaining precincts would be counted using the vote totals declared in the election canvass.
"Those other precincts don't go away," Glance said. "You don't start from zero."
Glance also said the county commission, sitting as a board of canvassers, sets the cost of a recount bond at the beginning of the canvass.
Pest said the recount performed Nov. 13-14 cost a total of $420. She said because the recount did not change the outcome of the race, Padlow must pay $120 in addition to the $300 bond for a total of $420. If the outcome had changed, the county would have been responsible for the cost.