WILKES-BARRE — The Luzerne County Election Bureau failed to notify two neighboring counties of the withdrawal of a Hazleton Area School Board candidate from Tuesday’s primary, prompting the possibility of re-voting for that race.
Steven Hahn, an incumbent from Sugarloaf Township, filed nomination petitions to retain his school board director post, but withdrew from the race in Luzerne County hours before a deadline.
Still, his name appeared on the ballot in Carbon and Schuylkill counties, in which Hahn ultimately received a total of 552 votes — 273 Democrat and 279 Republican. All seven Hazleton Area School Board candidates cross-filed on both the Republican and Democratic ballots for the four open seats.
“The candidate must file their withdrawal in the county with the majority of the population (that serves the respective district),” Election Bureau solicitor Michael Butera said. “We took him off here, but we didn’t notify the other counties.”
Butera said it was an oversight and that the office should have notified the two other counties.
Butera said it is “always a possibility” that a fellow candidate might ask for new elections in Schuylkill and Carbon counties, and that such a request would have to be submitted to each county’s respective Court of Common Pleas. A judge ultimately would decide.
Other candidates who ran for school board were Carmella Yenkevich, Clarence John, Thomas Chirico, James Champan, Bob Mehalick, Jared O’Donnell and Fred Mariano.
The top four vote getters on both party’s tickets were Mehalick, Chapman, O’Donnell and John. Yenkevich, Mariano and Chirico came in fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively, on both tickets.
Yenkevich and Mariano both said that, in principle, there should be new elections, but neither were willing to petition the courts on their own.
“If I had to do this on my, own, I would not unless I knew (Luzerne) County would take responsibility and pay for it,” Yenkevich said. “I don’t see why any candidate should have to do that because it was (Luzerne County’s) fault. … If Luzerne County said they would file for it and pay for it, I would have no objections. … I would consider it more seriously than if I had to pay court costs, notarizations and possibly an attorney.”
Yenkevich had only nine votes fewer than O’Donnell on the Democratic ticket and 32 less than John on the Republican ticket. She was the second-highest vote getter in Carbon and Schuylkill counties on the Democratic ticket and third highest there on the Republican ticket.
Neither O’Donnell nor John could be reached for comment.
Mariano was 354 votes behind O’Donnell and 317 behind John on the Democrat and Republican tickets, respectively. He said he “would be in favor of a re-vote” but doesn’t have the money to file court petitions in two counties.
“I’m not too pleased,” he said. “How the hell could you give 500 votes to someone who’s not on the ballot?”
Mehalick, who was top Republican vote getter and second highest on the Democrat ticket, said it’s “a tough situation” and “a shame it did happen. You would hope voters could go out and trust the system is in place.”
“I certainly think if there was going to be a re-election, it should be something the county would initiate and not one of us,” Mehalick said. “I could say if I was not in one of the top four spots and secured in my spot, I would feel the same way.”
Butera said he didn’t believe it would be fair for a re-vote to take place because other candidates have received nominations and the results might differ in a second election.
Luzerne County Council will consider at its May 28 meeting at Hazle Township Commons a resolution seeking a full review of the election to be performed by the county Board of Elections and Registration and that the board chairman present the review to council at the June 25 meeting.