Undecided Port Matilda mayor’s race going before judge

Port Matilda still waits for its new mayor.

Only unofficial vote tallies stand for write-in candidates Bobbi Jo Hamer, Ida Lively and Lynn Snyder more than a month after the 2013 general election.

They decided to run after Mayor Robert Wiser, after winning the primary and running unopposed, changed his mind about serving another term but missed the deadline for removing his name from the ballot. He then asked local residents not to choose him, though 29 did anyway.

Now, an upcoming hearing may help determine the winner.

Hamer filed for a recount after receiving 33 votes, one fewer than Lively. Snyder garnered seven votes.

But up in the air are 20 under-votes: electronic ballots cast without a write-in oval filled in for the mayor’s race.

On some, voters may have placed stickers bearing Hamer’s name.

Such stickers would constitute official votes before electronic ballots, said Jodi Neidig, of the Centre County Elections Office.

Modern tabulating machines, however, won’t recognize a write-in vote with an uncolored oval, Neidig said.

A judge could rule on the Port Matilda undervotes as soon as next week.

On Wednesday, Neidig said her office had not received any confirmation paperwork for a hearing.

But, she said, staff members suspect President Judge Thomas Kistler will decide the matter because he was the judge assigned to handle Election Day issues.

Kistler or another judge, Neidig said, will examine the sticker ballots and other undervotes, decide on the voters’ intentions and then instruct county election officials accordingly.

“It’ll be pretty much in his hands whether or not we count them,” Neidig said.

Another sign pointing to Kistler is a Dec. 10 hearing scheduled for his courtroom to arrange a recount requested by Benner Township incumbent Supervisor John Elnitski. Mark Capriani defeated Elnitski, 361-352.

Neidig said the Port Matilda and Benner Township races probably will be addressed on the same day.

Regardless of the undervote decision, a Port Matilda hearing also would set a recount date.

County election officials do not know how many of the 20 Port Matilda undervotes have stickers, Neidig said.

“We haven’t done anything with those ballots since they’ve come back to our office,” she said.