WHEELING — Ohio county election officials admit an error occurred regarding magisterial district lines and a contest for a seat on the county’s Republican executive committee.
Ohio County Attorney Don Tennant released a statement on Friday acknowledging that the county failed to notify up to 13 Falls Road-area voters that they were no longer in Magisterial District 2 , but had been transferred to District 1.
County commissioners were also not asked to approve the change in magisterial districts, the statement said.
Among the affected voters was Dolph Santorine, who had filed for the Republican County Executive Committee – Male Race in District 2.
“The Ohio County Board of Elections has confirmed that prior to the 2022 primary election (Tuesday), voters in one area of Ohio County have been moved from voting in Ward 16-A to Ward 13-A. Registered voters have been notified of the constituency change,” the statement read.
The decision was made as part of the legislative redistricting process, mandated by West Virginia law, to accommodate population changes within the boundaries of the House of Delegates district, he continued.
“Unfortunately, the precinct change has inadvertently caused a change in the magisterial district assigned to certain voters without an order confirmed by the Ohio County Commission and without the statutory notice required by law,” the statement said. “The change of magisterial electors was unintentional.
“It affected one race, namely the Republican County Executive Committee District 2 male race. It is believed that the approximate number of voters affected by the aforementioned contest is 12 to 13.”
The Elections Office is correcting constituency boundaries for future elections. Affected voters will be notified by mail ahead of the general election in November.
Two men are elected to the Ohio County Republican Executive Committee from each of the county’s three magisterial districts.
Election night totals saw Santorini receive 531 votes in the race, with Gregory W. Smith securing the second seat with 401. Alex Coogan was just five votes behind with 396, Russell Hardman had 240 and Michael Borsuk finished with 211.
Santorine would have run unopposed alongside Robert Luchetti in the District 1 race had he filed in that District.
The statement released by the county makes no reference to what happens to the election results in the race for the GOP executive committee.
When contacted, Tennant said he could add no further comment. He noted that the commissioners, as a ballot review commission, will meet at 9 a.m. on Monday “to count the ballots, review the provisional votes and ultimately certify the elections.”
Once the election is certified, the West Virginia Code allows “an aggrieved candidate, voter, or institution” to challenge the canvassing results. This would result in a hearing before the solicitation board.
If the entity filing the contest is not satisfied with the results, that entity may file a lawsuit in the Circuit Court.
Santorini does not believe the issue should be resolved legally. He said he could attend the canvassing on Monday.
“I have no reason to sue them. There’s nothing to prove here,” Santorine said. “I believe the county fixed the issue. I’m happy with the outcome.
“I understand the election on District 2 prevails. The county commission is taking steps to correct this misunderstanding.