Sanitation vote goes to independent counsel


The winner of the election for an open seat on the Sanitary District 7 board of commissioners will not be announced until at least July 10, three weeks after election night, due to an “irregularity in voting.”

The announcement of the winner was expected on June 25, after 184 paper ballots were counted. All three candidates — Tom Lanning, Mike Franzini and Steve Edmondson — appeared at a meeting in the district office at noon that day, but there was no announcement and no counting of paper ballots.

An “irregularity in voting” delayed the process, according to Jerome Cline, a lawyer for the district. Cline said that there was a discrepancy in the number of votes cast and the number of people who signed in to vote on June 19, the day of the election. The error was discovered the Tuesday night before the ballots were to be counted.

The paper ballots were put on hold when the irregularity was discovered, and the board hired the law firm of Forchelli, Curto, Deegan, Schwartz, Mineo and Terrana to determine how to proceed.

“When the machine count was examined, there was a significant undervote,” said Jack L. Libert, an attorney for the independent counsel. “What that means is that a number of people who entered the voting booth did not have their votes cast.”

Libert said that the error affected “eight or nine percent” of voters, or as many as 140.

“That percentage tells us that there was something wrong with the machines or with the process,” Libert said. The firm will make recommendations to the sanitation board at a meeting on July 10. The firm is still in the “information gathering stage,” Libert said.

According to the two voting machines used by the district, Lanning led Franzini by 98 votes, 837-739, with Edmondson in third place, as polls at the Columbia Firehouse closed on June 19. There were 184 paper ballots, which were not counted on the night of the election but instead stored at the district office, to be counted on June 25. On that day, Cline informed all three candidates that there was a problem with the voting, and that the district was going to retain counsel.

Libert said he has not seen the paper ballots, but has been told they are being held in a cabinet in the sanitation department’s district office.