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Write-in voting focus on Brooke

September 26, 2012
Weirton Daily Times

WELLSBURG - When write-in votes for Brooke County sheriff should be counted and a proposal to lease the county prosecutor's office were among matters before the Brooke County Commission on Tuesday.

County Clerk Sylvia Benzo told the commission that Mike Allman has filed as a write-in candidate for sheriff.

That means Allman's name won't appear on ballots but voters may submit a write-in vote for him by pressing the write-in option when they come to "sheriff" on the onscreen ballot in the county's electronic voting machines.

Allman was defeated by Chuck Jackson, currently the county's chief sheriff's deputy, on the Democratic ticket in the May primary election. Jackson is unchallenged in the Nov. 6 general election.

Jackson in May received 2,209 votes, while Allman received 1,765 in a three-way Democratic race that also included Roger Garretson. Incumbent Richard Ferguson may not seek a third term under state law.

Benzo said when voters cast write-in votes, their choice is recorded on the paper trail inside the machine but not on the computer card used to tabulate votes on election night.

She said the cards will indicate only that write-in votes were cast, not for whom. She added that will be true for any write-in votes, whether they be votes for any of 24 official write-in presidential candidates on West Virginia ballots or "gag" votes for Santa Claus, Mickey Mouse or other fictional characters that aren't uncommon.

Benzo said she and other election clerks know on election night how many write-in votes have been cast, but normally the recipients of those votes aren't known until the ballots have been canvassed later that week.

She asked the commissioners whether they wanted her and the other clerks to extract the names for the write-in candidates on that night, which is likely to delay reporting of the results.

The commission took no action on the matter, tabling it for further consideration.

Benzo noted that not all write-in candidates may win an election race, only those who have filed a certificate of announcement as required by the Secretary of State's office.

Unlike in Ohio, those wishing to be named write-in candidates aren't required to submit a petition signed by a designated number of registered voters.

In related business, Benzo announced Oct. 16 is the last day for voters to register or make any changes to their registration, and early voting will be held from Oct. 24 through Nov. 3.

For information, call Benzo's office at (304) 737-3661.

In other business, the commission tabled a proposed lease of part of the Cross Law Office for use by the future county Prosecutor Joseph Barki III, beginning in January. For many years County Prosecutor David B. Cross and up to three assistant prosecutors have worked out of the 727 Charles St. office of Cross' private law firm. Cross said he never charged the county for the use of his office.

"Basically it was just free to them all these years," he said.

Barki, who has served as an assistant county prosecutor while operating his own private law practice out of Cross' office, plans to assume the prosecuting attorney's role on a full-time basis when his term begins in January.

Cross has asked the commission to consider a monthly rent of about $2,076, which includes a share of utilities - gas, electricity, water, telephone and garbage collection services.

Asked the commission's position on the proposal, Commissioner Tim Ennis said the commission may consider it at least on a temporary basis because there's no space at the county courthouse.

Ennis recently formed a committee to plan the relocation of the county's magistrate and family courts to another building, such as the former county museum at Sixth and Charles streets.

The courts were moved to the third floor of the Progressive Bank building following the 2004 flood, but the commission since learned the court facilities, which are in a separate part from the bank, don't comply with state fire codes.

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