CHARLES TOWN – Business owner Jean Petti is ahead by two votes after Thursday’s Charles Town City Council election, but determining the ultimate winner of the Ward 3 race could take another week or longer, said City Manager Daryl Hennessy.
Once the City Council resolves 10 provisional ballots and seven uncertain write-in votes, either Petti or challenger James Walch could request a recount.
Only 346 ballots were cast in the election, which included a 10-day early voting period. There are about 5,200 registered voters in the city, according to an estimate from the Jefferson County Clerk’s office.
The new City Council is set to meet June 17, the same week that Mayor Scott Rogers’ resignation is expected to take effect. In a May 1 email, he announced his plan to step down midday through his four-year term.
The eight-member City Council – including Bob Trainor, who won re-election last week and other winners Heather Sprenger and Jim Kratovil – will decide on a mayor to serve out Rogers’s term.
The new council also will contend with a petition presented earlier this month that’s designed to undo the vote taken in March in which the city authorized state funding for a sewer line for the Rockwool factory set to open in the fall of 2020.
Utility leaders told City Council a decision to reject the state funding would mean higher bills for the utility’s customers.
The City Council, the election’s final authority as the board of canvassers, meets this evening to review the election’s results and declares total vote counts for each of the four ward races.
That step takes place at City Hall starting at 6 p.m.
Council members will decide whether to accept each provisional and write-in ballot for the Ward 3 race, Hennessy said. “We’ll actually have 17 ballots to talk through as a group,” he said. “We have a basis for why they were rejected, and we’ll go through every one of them.”
Provisional ballots were set aside to determine whether the voter is an eligible, registered city voter. Write-in ballots were rejected when election officials could not determine whether a voter intended to cast a vote for a particular candidate.
After the election canvass, Walch or Petti will have 48 hours – or until 6 p.m. Friday – to file a recount request, Hennessy said. Such a recount would provide a hand re-tallying of all the paper ballots accepted in the Ward 3 race; it wouldn’t challenge the council’s decision to accept or reject individual ballots.
Hennessy said he would follow procedures outlined in state law to schedule a time and place. “It’s done in front of the council,” he said. “They observe the process.”
The outcome of the Petti-Walch race should be known no later than June 10, Hennessy said.