"I thought all the drama would be over yesterday," says Bob Fenwick, who waits to learn if he'll be the second Democratic nominee for City Council.
Wes Bellamy, right, with adviser Ty Cooper, waits to hear his fate in the six provisional ballots about to be counted.
photo by lisa provence
Normally the light-turnout primary race for City Council would have been decided Tuesday night shortly after the polls closed at 7pm. Instead, an unprecedented tie for second place has candidates Wes Bellamy and Bob Fenwick still unsure who will be on the Democratic ticket in the fall, and they may not know until noon Friday.
When the votes were counted June 11, Bellamy and Fenwick each had 1,088 votes in the five-man race, with incumbent Kristin Szakos holding a clear 32-percent-of the-vote lead.
The Electoral Board convened Wednesday morning to go over the returns and determine whether the seven provisional ballots– the ones in which a voter's registration doesn't match up with the registrar's– are accepted and added to the count, along with four provisional ballots from people who came to the polls without identification.
By 11am June 12, the board began opening envelopes containing the seven provisional ballots and four ID provisionals. Six were accepted– one guy said he'd changed his registration at the DMV, but there was no record of it, he'd last registered in Albemarle County, and he'd tried to vote in the wrong precinct for the address he gave. That ballot was rejected.
Five provisional ballots came from Walker precinct, where early voters ran into a voting machine snafu. Those names and addresses all matched Registrar Sheri Iachetta's records and were accepted. Another provisional in the Carver precinct was cast by someone who'd voted overseas the past two elections and hadn't notified the registrar he was back. "He voted provisionally and should be accepted," said Iachetta.
With that, six ballots were ready to be counted. "My heart's beating," said board member Joan Schatzman.
Bellamy and Fenwick sat across as a conference table as Electoral Board chair Rick Sincere read the City Council votes: five votes for Szakos, two votes for Melvin Grady, three for Fenwick, and none for Bellamy.
That put Fenwick at 1,091 to Bellamy's 1,088. But wait, there are more votes to be counted– the four ID provisional ballots. Those voters have until noon Friday to either fax a copy of their ID or come by the registrar's office with it, reminded Iachetta.
Schatzman suggested a courtesy call to the four who didn't have ID when they voted. "That's more than we had in the presidential election," noted Sincere. "We had two then."
Morgan Butler was one of those identification-less voters, and he had just gotten back from the registrar's office when he spoke to the Hook.
He usually bikes to work, and was late getting out of his office at Southern Environmental Law. "In my haste, I left my wallet sitting on my desk," he says. "I felt terrible. I show up at 6:59 hot and sweaty, and then have to do a provisional ballot."
Butler declines to say for whom he voted. "It makes it exciting to know you're one of the uncounted."
One thing he says he didn't know as a provisional ballot caster is that he still had to show his ID after election day for his vote to count, but he's glad there was an option for voters who go to the polls without identification.
As for possibly being one of the tie-breaking votes, says Butler, "Every vote counts."
Outside City Hall after Fenwick had just picked up three votes, a smiling Bellamy characterized the situation as "the luck of the draw."
And indeed, it could come down to luck of the draw if he can match Fenwick's three votes. The next step in the electoral process if they remain tied?
"The candidates choose a tiebreaker," says assistant registrar Carla Mullen. "It could be a coin toss or to pick a card."
In other June 11 city races, Dave Chapman handily held onto the nomination for commonwealth's attorney with 72 percent of the vote over challenger Steve Deaton. Todd Divers won the commissioner of revenue nomination with 52 percent of the vote, while opponent Jonathan Stevens trailed by fewer than 100 votes.
In the statewide races, Aneesh Chopra garnered 58 percent of the vote for lieutenant governor in Charlottesville, but that wasn't enough to put him ahead of state Senator Ralph Northam, who took 54 percent of the vote across the commonwealth. State Senator Mark Herring will be on the Democratic ballot for attorney general, beating challenger Justin Fairfax with 52 percent of the vote.
Correction 6/14: Sheri Iachetta's name was misspelled in the original version. The Hook certainly knows better and regrets the error.