Election dispute placed in hands of Luzerne judge
The primary election dispute over votes cast in Carbon and Schuylkill counties in the race for nominations for the Hazleton Area School District board of school directors will not be heard in either county.
Judges in Schuylkill and Carbon have signed orders transferring the matter to Luzerne County. Schuylkill President Judge William E. Baldwin and Carbon Judge Joseph J. Matika have both signed orders transferring the matter.
Petitions were filed in both counties by a group of eligible voters seeking a new election. Luzerne County Director of Elections Marisa Crispell failed to inform her counterparts in Schuylkill and Carbon counties that Steven Hahn, an incumbent director who filed for re-election, withdrew from the race and properly notified Luzerne of his withdrawal. By Luzerne not informing the other two counties of Hahn's withdrawal, his name remained on the ballots in those counties. He received 500 votes in those counties.
Luzerne officials have admitted to the mistake and proposed to mail absentee ballots to Carbon and Schuylkill citizens who voted in the primary for a new election in those two counties and offered to pay the cost of the new vote.
The majority of the voting for school directors in the Hazleton district lies in Luzerne. However, several districts are in the other counties. In Carbon County, Beaver Meadows borough and Banks Township residents vote in the district. In Schuylkill County, the voting areas are McAdoo borough and the townships of Kline, East Union, and North Union.
The announced winners of the May vote were Jim Chapman, Clarence John, Robert Mehalick, and Jared O'Donnell. They won both the Democratic and Republican nominations.
The petitions were signed by 25 taxpayers, including Carmella Yenkevich, an incumbent director who was seeking re-election. She finished a close fifth in both races for nominations of the two parties. Because of the close finish, the petitioners said the 500 votes cast for Hahn could very easily change the final outcome.
A hearing is scheduled for Thursday in Luzerne County court where judges will decide whether an admitted mistake by its election bureau justifies overturning the results of the May primary.