Twenty-five Luzerne County residents filed a petition in the county's Court of Common Pleas on Thursday, asking a judge to nullify the result of the May 21 Primary Election as it pertains to Hazleton Area School District balloting.
The issue involves parts of Carbon (Banks Township and Beaver Meadows) and Schuylkill (McAdoo Borough and East Union, North Union and Kline townships) counties, which are part of that school district.
At issue are the results of Democratic and Republican balloting for four four-year terms on the district's board of directors that are to be filled by the electorate this year. That's because one candidate, Steve Hahn, withdrew from the race prior to election day, but Luzerne County officials failed to notify election officials in Carbon and Schuylkill counties and the voting took place with Hahn's name on the ballots.
Luzerne officials have admitted their mistake and have already intervened in the petition filed yesterday, offering to spend $10,000 on a new election to correct the problem. In the county's proposal, it offers to print and mail 5,676 absentee ballots to voters in the areas where Hahn's name incorrectly appeared on the ballots. Whether or not the court allows that proposal to take place is pending a court hearing and ruling on the matter.
However, state law states absentee ballots are only available to voters who have an illness or who will be out of the county on the day of an election, thus the legality of Luzerne's proposal in accordance with state election laws remains at stake.
President Judge Thomas F. Burke Jr. and Judge Michael Vogue has been assigned the case. They have scheduled the hearing for June 20, after which time the judges could come up with their own final determination on how to resolve the dilemma.
One candidate, Carmella Yenkevich, a school board member who narrowly lost nominations in May 21 primary, is one of the petitioners. She has claimed that 273 Democratic votes and 279 Republican votes Hahn received because he was incorrectly listed on the Carbon and Schuylkill ballots could have been dispersed to other candidates to a degree that the results of the election would have been impacted.
In the Democratic balloting last month, James Chapman led the way with 2,288 votes, followed by Robert Mehalick, 2,203, Clarence John, 1,967, and Jared O'Donnell, 1,857. Yenkevich trailed by just eight votes with 1,849. Hahn received 167 votes in Schuylkill County and 106 votes in Carbon County.
In the Republican balloting, Mehalick was high with 1,846, followed by O'Donnell, 1,800, Chapman, 1,737, and John, 1,621. Yenkevich trailed by 32 votes with 1,589. Hahn received 226 votes in Schuylkill and 53 votes in Carbon.
Two other candidates, Fred Mariano and Thomas Chirico, received significantly less votes than the winning candidates and Yenkevich.