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Primary election results change with Wood County canvass

The Wood County Commission met as the canvassing board Monday to consider provisional ballots and absentee ballots to be added to last week’s election totals. The commission added 52 ballots to the total, including 37 approved provisional ballots and 15 absentee ballots that came in on time with the proper postmark. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

PARKERSBURG — The Wood County Board of Education result changed and the race for a House of Delegates seat might continue in other avenues following Monday’s canvassing of last week’s election results.

The Wood County Commission met as the canvassing board Monday to consider provisional ballots and absentee ballots to be added to the election totals.

The commission declared the results at 3:30 p.m. Monday. Candidates have 48 hours from when the results were declared to ask for a recount.

Out of 55 provisional ballots considered, 37 were approved to be added to the vote totals. The county also added in 15 absentee ballots that were received on time with the proper postmark. Absentee ballots had to be postmarked May 10 and received by 9:30 a.m. Monday when the canvassing began.

“We added in 52 ballots,” Wood County Clerk Mark Rhodes said.

Wood County Clerk Mark Rhodes, Republican Wood County Commission President Blair Couch, Wood County Democratic Committee Representative Judy Stephens and Wood County IT Systems & Network Administrator Chris Whittaker enter the contents of a torn ballot that was challenged and approved to be counted during the canvassing process Monday. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

Following last Tuesday’s unofficial election tallies, Jeff Fox was leading Debbie Hendershot 5,158 to 5,155 in one of the seats for the Wood County Board of Education. However, after Monday’s canvassing Hendershot ended up winning by five votes.

Fox said Monday he would weigh his options on what he will want to do and make a decision within the next day or so.

He wants to asks Rhodes some further questions. He is planning to talk to some people he knows and get some opinions and make a decision by Wednesday on if he wants to pursue a recount or not.

Hendershot could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Another close election was for the Republican spot for the 11th District House of Delegates seat. On election night, Bob Fehrenbacher led incumbent Roger Conley 1,146 votes to 1,138, a difference of eight votes. After Monday’s canvass, it was still Fehrenbacher leading with 1,149 and Conley with 1,139, a difference of 10 votes.

The canvassing of last week’s election results took place Monday at the Wood County Courthouse under the supervision of the Wood County Commission. A number of candidates in close races attended to watch the process as well as attorneys and other interested people. Only the Wood County Board of Education race between Jeff Fox and Debbie Hendershot changed with Hendershot ending up winning by five votes. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

There were questions about Fehrenbacher’s candidacy by Republican party officials after it was learned he was not registered with the party when he filed to run. The Wood County Republican Executive Committee voted to disclaim his candidacy and state GOP Chairman Mark Harris asked him to withdraw from the race, saying a win by Fehrenbacher would be “potentially endangering a safe Republican seat.”

Fehrenbacher corrected the mistake when he learned about it and said he believed he filed as a Republican and has run as one.

After the results were declared Monday, Conley said he is considering his options.

“I have 48 hours to make that decision,” he said. “I have 48 hours to determine if we want to go with a recount or some other option.

“I do have other options. The bottom line is sometime in the next 48 hours to make the determination on what our next step is going to be. The only thing I can say is the final chapter is not yet written.”

On Monday after the results were declared, Fehrenbacher said he was “honored and humbled” by the support of the voters and the results.

“I am thrilled the voters in District 11 have trusted me to advance to the general election and hopefully be successful in representing them in the House of Delegates,” he said.

Whatever, Conley decides to do Fehrenbacher said he will respond appropriately.

“I want to extend appreciation to Mr. Conley for the service he has rendered to the people of Wood County,” he said. “I respect him and wish him well.

“If he asks for a recount, I trust the process and will abide by that outcome.”

Both Fehrenbacher and Conley were present witnessing the canvassing process as well as Fox. Others attended including attorneys and a representative from the state Attorney General’s office.

Officials also picked three precincts randomly to conduct a hand count of the results with officials saying they were within the required one percent of the totals. The precincts picked were 50 (Williamstown Elementary), 60 (Kanawha Elementary School) and 85 (Rockport Church of Christ).

One ballot was torn, could not be scanned and its results were entered into the system under the supervision of one Republican and one Democrat who were present.

There were five ballots were rejected because there wasn’t enough information to accept them. Officials didn’t know if it was the right party or precinct or anything that would allow officials to properly count them.

The commissioners counted a few provisional ballots where people tried to vote absentee but their ballot never arrived and they voted a provisional ballot. Those ended up counting as the absentee ballot was never received which was confirmed through the County Clerk’s office.

Couch said they would approve a ballot if it was the same as the precinct they were suppose to vote in. Others will be people who moved to a new precinct and voted in the proper precinct even though their registration had not been updated yet.

One person was marked as deceased and was discovered it was a parent who passed away. The person’s vote counted because they could show ID proving who they are.

If voters who missed two federal elections and were purged from the rolls and they tried to vote again without registering again, officials could not accept it. Other grounds for not accepting provisional ballots are people insisting on voting in the primary for the party they are not registered in. Others are people registered to vote in other counties. Some people insisted on voting a ballot that does not match their precinct.

Some people thought they registered to vote when they renewed their driver’s license through the state Department of Motor Vehicles. They checked a box on the paperwork which was suppose to trigger an e-mail to the County Clerk’s office and sent a package with the proper forms to register. However, Couch said the system has had a number of problems and the Clerk’s office wasn’t informed and the packets were not sent out.

Unfortunately, without the proper registration in place those provisional ballots had to be rejected, Couch said.

There were some ballots rejected where people voted in the wrong precinct.

There was some district re-alignments due to changes in the census.

“I’m surprised we don’t have more due to redistricting (following the census),” Rhodes said.

Brett Dunlap can be reached at bdunlap@newsandsentinel.com

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