Missing Struthers ballots to be counted Nov. 14

A box full of ballots from Struthers, Ohio were misplaced at the Mahoning County Board of Elections.
Boxes full of ballots, such as those pictured here, are delivered to the Mahoning County Board of Elections.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Voters in Struthers will have to wait until November 14 to see if the outcome of the mayoral race there is valid.

A box of uncounted ballots from two precincts in Struthers is sealed and locked up inside the Mahoning County Board of Elections offices. State guidelines prevent the votes from being counted until Nov. 14.

The mix up came to light Wednesday when Director Joyce Kale-Pesta realized results collected at polling places didn’t add up with numbers at her office. She went to the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Department to review surveillance video collected at the board and discovered the bin containing 147 ballots from precincts 3-A and C.

“The ballot box was never brought to us to be counted on election night. It was just human error by the people working on the other side that unloaded our trucks,” Kale-Pesta said.

Kale-Pesta said the surveillance video shows the sealed box being taken off of a truck Tuesday and placed on the wrong cart. It was then taken directly into a vault inside the county offices.

“The ballot box is still sealed just like it was on election night,” Kale-Pesta said.

Those misplaced votes could upset the outcome of Tuesday’s mayoral race in Struthers where write-in candidate Danny Thomas won by just 72 votes over current mayor Terry Stocker.

Stocker said he has been a roller coaster ride for months trying to win re-election and is looking forward to the finality.

“That would be something that I think would put everybody’s mind at ease,” Stocker said. “I just think something slipped through the cracks and obviously they found this.”

Pesta is calling it a case of “human error” – blaming at least part of the problem on the unusually high number of write-in ballots for both the mayoral race and the Youngstown School Board. But she plans to leave the uncounted ballots in the vault until next Saturday when the board holds its official canvas of all races and issues.

“We will open the box in front of observers and count the ballots for them,” Kale-Pesta said.

For now, Stocker is feeling more optimistic than he was Tuesday.

“There is another turn of events that allow you to have life again, so it is like coming back from the dead,” Stocker said.

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