11/04/04 — Uncounted ballots leave candidates in limbo

View Archive

Uncounted ballots leave candidates in limbo

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on November 4, 2004 2:02 PM

Wayne County's stack of uncounted ballots will be weighing on four commissioner candidates until next week.

At the end of Election Night, Atlas Price led Hal Keck by 158 votes for the county board's at-large seat, and Roland "Bud" Gray held a 79-vote margin over Ed Wharton in District 5.

But the Board of Elections still has to deal with 2,424 provisional ballots, most of which will be added to the unofficial totals. That leaves the four candidates in limbo until the vote canvass next Tuesday.

Price, a Democratic commissioner for 14 years, had thought his election this year might come down to the provisional ballots, he said Wednesday afternoon. "I thought we might have to wait three or four days."

He continued, "I'm well-pleased to be in the lead, but anything can happen with those 2,400 ballots. People are unpredictable and things are changing. ... I really don't have a choice but to wait and hope for the best."

His Republican opponent feels optimistic about a second chance.

"To tell you the truth, I felt very disappointed and down (Tuesday) night for it to be all over and to be so close," Keck said Wednesday afternoon. "I hated to hang my hat on the hope that a recount could pick up enough votes to make up a 158-vote difference."

But around 1,000 of the provisional ballots are from the early voting period, and Keck led Price in the early voting, he noted. "If the percentages are the same, then it's very likely that I could catch up.

"I'm very, very happy to wait for the count and optimistic that I'll come out on top."

All eligible provisional ballots will affect the Price-Keck countywide race. How many will also include votes in District 5 is anyone's guess.

"It could be zero and it could be 1,000," said Wharton. "I'm in limbo. I've lost, but I haven't lost."

Wharton, the county's GOP chairman, expressed confidence in the Board of Elections members. "They've handled this the best they can," he said.

Gray called the wait "tough." Most people have been calling to congratulate him, not understanding the situation, he said. "It's up in the air."

Two other incumbents won Tuesday, seemingly with big enough margins that they will not be affected by the provisional ballots.

In District 4, Commissioner Efton Sager won re-election with 4,105 votes, or 59 percent of the vote. His margin of victory over Democrat Mark Hood was nearly 1,200 votes.

"I had a lot of good people working for me and apparently good support," Sager said. "It was a clean campaign. I developed a good friendship with what was an adversary. I know the next four years will be very tough. We have bigger problems to face and challenges to overcome, and I'm up for the challenge."

In District 6, Commissioner Jack Best received 4,000 votes, or 770 more than Republican Roger Bedford. It was Best's first win in a county race; he had been appointed earlier this year to replace former Commissioner Ken Gerrard.

The other three incumbent commissioners -- Republican Andy Anderson and Democrats J.D. Evans and John Bell -- were unopposed this year.

The new board will be sworn in at its meeting Tuesday, Dec. 7.