The recent village elections in Manlius proved to be a tight race between two incumbent trustees Marc Baum and Harold Hopkinson.
Immediately after polls closed Tuesday night, initial reports indicated Hopkinson had secured 228 votes; Baum 233. There were still eight uncounted absentee votes and 193 write-ins.
A recanvass held Wednesday morning by the Onondaga County Board of Elections increased Hopkinson's final count to 236 and Baum's to 235.
One of the absentee votes counted, however, was cast by Arnold Ferguson, who died Feb. 25. He was candidate Nancy Pfeiffer's father. According to Commissioner Helen Kiggins, the board did not catch the ineligible ballot before the recanvass; if it had, it would have been pulled.
"We should have caught it," Kiggins said. "I hate to see something like this [happen]."
The Board of Elections became aware of the issue through an e-mail from Baum sent Wednesday morning, informing employees of Ferguson's death 10 days earlier. By the time the e-mail was opened, the ballots had already been recanvassed; there was no way to tell who voted for whom.
Ferguson's vote was cast legally; absentee ballots are mailed out about a month prior to an election. Once a person dies, though, the ballot becomes invalid. The Board of Elections relies on the State Department of Health for a monthly list of deceased names, but Kiggins said they had not yet received the February list. Additionally, a clerk employed by the Board of Elections typically checks daily obituaries to stay ahead but had not yet reached the date of Ferguson's death.
Had Ferguson's vote been invalidated, Baum and Hopkinson may have tied, which means the two parties could have chosen to do a runoff election or they could have waived the runoff and had gone to a lot, using bingo balls, cards or another type of random method chosen by the village to determine the winner.
Also elected trustee was Pfeiffer with 246 votes and incumbent Scott McGrew with 239 votes. Trustees serve a four-year term.
The results are being certified today, March 17, Kiggins said.