Tie-breaker: Fenwick pulls ahead by 5 in council race

Three days after the June 11 Democratic primary and an unprecedented tie for one of two City Council nominations, Wes Bellamy and Bob Fenwick learned who will join incumbent Kristin Szakos on the ticket in November. The results came down to provisional-ballot casters, who broke the 1,088-vote tie and put Fenwick ahead by five.

 

"We're in new territory here," says Rick Sincere, chair of the Electoral Board, when the board convened for the second time after the election at 1:30pm Friday, June 14, to count the final provisional ballots cast by four people who didn't have ID at the polls, a new requirement from the General Assembly. "There was no evidence of fraud," says Sincere, "but we're stuck with what the General Assembly gives us."

 

The board, the candidates, and Charlottesville Registrar Sheri lachetta had gathered June 12 to assess the seven non-ID provisional ballots, which arise when a voter doesn't show up on the poll books – or in the case of five people from Walker precinct, when a voting machine malfunctioned.

One provisional ballot was rejected because the voter's registration was in Albemarle County. The other six were confirmed as registered voters in their respective city precincts. Fenwick picked up three more votes; Bellamy added none.

 

The delay on the ID provisional ballots came from state code, which gives the voters until noon Friday to produce identification. lachetta made courtesy calls to three – one phone number didn't pan out – and the others brought adequate proof for their identification. "They were very excited to bring their IDs in," says lachetta.

Morgan Butler was one of those identification-less voters, and he had just gotten back from the registrar's office June 12 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."

And then Friday, the last three ballots were counted, giving Szakos two more votes, Melvin Grady one, Adam Lees one, Fenwick two, and Bellamy zero.

With the count over and Fenwick up by five, Bellamy shook Fenwick's hand and brushed a speck off the nominee's shoulder. "This is my guy," said Bellamy. "I've got to make sure he's good."

Bellamy, a 26-year-old teacher at Albemarle High, congratulated general construction contractor Fenwick again and said, "I'm going to do everything I can to support him and the party."

Fenwick says he was relieved with the outcome. "This is a totally unprecedented situation we've been through." And looking ahead to the November race against Republicans Buddy Weber and Mike Farruggio, he says, "We face a stiff challenge."

The only person openly disappointed about the outcome was Electoral Board Chair Sincere. "It would have been interesting to settle it by a game of chance," he says wistfully. And yes, the luck of the draw is the legally sanctioned method of determining a winner in a tied primary race.

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.

Updated June 18 with content from the online story Nail-biter: Fenwick has 3-vote lead in ballot count– for no.

4 comments

Don't give up just because you lost by decision, Wes. Start jogging in the clouds with me and my white unicorn!

I wouldn't trust the C-ville's registrars office as far as I can throw them. They left our info on laptops willy nilly unsecured in Washington Park a few years ago, and the laptops were stolen. Also voter info is used to to jam folks for jury duty, and by anyone else who wants it hence I withdrew my name from the voting rolls. Might as well live in Russia.

Well, anyone who is so determined to avoid jury duty probably isn't someone who we'd want serving anyhow. Having been chosen several times,not saying its something I'm thrilled over but I'd certainly never try to come up with some specious reason to avoid it. In fact, I regard it as a vital part in one's role as a citizen. not some imposition.
Congrats to Bob Fenwick, the only one I would have voted for had I still lived in the City.