UPDATE: Fairmont City Council results changed when 57 missing votes counted
The results have changed in two Fairmont City Council elections after 57 missing votes were counted.
Before the missing ballots were discovered, Marcella Yaremchuk had won a tiebreaker in District 1 over Josh Rice, and Houston Richardson defeated Barry Bledsoe in District 5’s tiebreaker.
Now, both of those results are flipped.
The new results are the following:
Josh Rice 1,734
Marcella Yaremchuk 1,728
Susan McCollum 1,723
Barry Bledso 883
Houston Richardson 880
Chuck Warner 855
Yaremchuk and Richardson had already been sworn into office. Candidates have 48 hours to request a recount. If the results stand, the two will be removed and Rice and Bledso will take up their respective positions.
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A hearing requested by the West Virginia Secretary of State's office was held Wednesday, where Judge Patrick Wilson ruled to decertify Fairmont's City Council elections to count the missing 57 votes.
Officials say the votes were lost due to a human error, and no fraud is suspected.
Once the court files the writ of mandamus, the county will have five days to count the votes.
WV Secretary of State Mac Warner says this hearing shows how important it is to make sure every vote counts, and says the process should be over by the end of the month.
"The canvassing will occur next week and then an opportunity for a recount if necessary," said Secretary Warner. "I don't anticipate that being the case, but it might. Then after that the election will be re-certified and those 57 votes will count."
After an election year that produced several twists and turns in Fairmont, the latest twist this week might be the most significant one yet.
More than a month after Election Day, Marion County election officials announced they discovered 57 uncounted votes from one machine that could affect the outcome of multiple Fairmont City Council races.
That machine was from precinct 36 near Fairmont Senior High School.
They discovered the error while they compiled post-election reports. They then noticed the number of voters didn’t match the number of ballots cast, according to County Administrator Kris Cinalli.
The ballot discrepancy affects two races in Fairmont; Districts 1 and 5 races for City Council ended in ties. Marcella Yaremchuk won the tiebreaker in District 1 over Josh Rice, and Houston Richardson defeated Barry Bledsoe in District 5’s tiebreaker.
Election officials said in a press release that they plan to seek permission from the Circuit Court of Marion County to tabulate all votes from the precinct.