CHARLES TOWN – Political newcomer Jonathan Wertman reversed last week’s election night ballot count and finished two votes ahead of incumbent Charles Town Councilman Don Clendening following a canvass of the vote total Tuesday evening.
[cleeng_content id="355560861" description="Read it now!" price="0.15" t="article"]The reversal came after both candidates approved nine provisional ballots that had not been counted last week that were recommended by City Clerk Kiya Tabb. The nine ballots broke heavily for Wertman, leaving him ahead in the count.
Clendening said “in all likelihood” he would seek a recount.
Initial results of the election, posted Friday, had incumbents Donald Clendening and Rich Bringewatt retaining their seats in races against Wertman and challenger Geary Johns, though the margin between in the Ward Three race fought by Wertman and Clendening was only one vote.
In an election with a turnout rate of just over 10 percent, Bringewatt defeated Johns by a margin of 219 to 143.
In the final tally in the race between Clendening and Wertman, however, the incumbent only edged out a 192 to 191 victory, with 16 provisional ballots yet to be counted.
City Manager Joe Cosentini said the city’s canvassing board is responsible for determining which provisional ballots will be counted, on advice from Tabb.
“The city clerk will present information to the canvassing board, and the canvassing board will make a determination of which ballots will be counted and which ballots won’t be counted,” Cosentini said. “I’m expecting that around half of the ballots will be counted.”
Tabb said prior to the meeting that she would recommend that nine of the 16 ballots be counted by the canvassing board. Those she recommended be thrown out were either cast by non-residents or non-registered voters, she said.
Cosentini said voters may be asked to cast provisional ballots for a variety of reasons, including if their name is accidentally left off of poll books, if they registered to vote after the poll book was printed or if they had recently moved to another ward.
Provisional ballots will be rejected if the voters who cast them are determined to be ineligible.
“Some people wind up voting who have a Charles Town address but live outside municipal elections boundaries,” Cosentini said. “Those would be discarded.”
Once the canvassing board announces the official results, candidates will have the opportunity to challenge the results and ask for a recount, an outcome that has happened twice in recent elections and is highly likely this year in the race between Clendening and Wertman.
“I’m simply hoping that whatever ballots that were properly cast are counted,” Wertman said. “It is going to be very close, and we recognize that there are some provisional ballots that are not going to count.
“If we are down by one vote or a few votes, we will seek a recount, and I would expect my opponent to do the same,” Wertman said.
Clendening agreed a recount should be done if the tally came to within six or seven votes.
“That would be a legitimate reason to challenge it,” he said.