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Republican requests recount in close board race

WILSON -- Republican village trustee candidate Keith Douglas -- who lost Tuesday's election to Democrat Bernard Leiker by 10 votes -- has requested a recount.

Nancy Smith, Democratic Commissioner for the Niagara County Board of Elections, said Thursday that she and Republican Commissioner Mary Ann Casamento will decide today when the recanvassing will take place. She added that they only have five days to conduct the recount by election law.

Leiker defeated Douglas by a vote of 142 to 132 for the sole trustee spot up for grabs on the Village Board. Both were first-time candidates, seeking to replace retiring Trustee Milton "Ollie" Clark for a four-year term.

"Election inspectors deemed 24 ballots invalid in that race, which were either marked with an improper mark -- it has to be an X or a check mark -- or left blank," village Mayor Patrick Kelahan said.

Smith said the Board of Elections would recanvass every vote cast in the election.

Douglas said that while he is disappointed with the final tally, he felt his loss was due to the ballots being "confusing to voters."

"When I first went in to vote, I knew right away that there would be some problems with the ballots, but I didn't know the race would be this close," said Douglas. "I think people marked the box for write-ins because it was close to my name, or they didn't put the proper mark down, and [the inspectors] ended up throwing out less than 10 percent of the vote. I think there were a lot of votes that were mismarked for me and a few for Bernie, too."

"It is certainly well within the rights of either candidate to ask for a recanvassing," Kelahan said, "and I believe this is an opportunity for the village to have validation that this election was done entirely in the way it should have been done. [The recanvassing] is something that is important for the public to understand."

Leiker also said he welcomed the recount.

"It reaffirms how efficient the people running the election were," he said. "[Douglas] certainly has the right to do this. That's why we live in a Democratic society."

"We had 298 votes cast," the mayor added, "and that is a wonderful number. It was an enormous turnout and to have it come down to the spread of 10 votes is a testament to how this community is engaged in what is happening here."

Smith called the recount unusual in that the Board of Elections does not usually get involved in village elections.

"This is the first time anything like this has happened since I've been here and I came here in 1998," she said.

Smith said the results of the recanvassing would be submitted to Village Clerk/Treasurer Ellen Hibbard, to whom Douglas made his request before it was turned over to the county.

e-mail: niagaranews@buffnews.com

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