AUSTINTOWN Added ballots fail to tip vote on bond issue

A recount next week is the last chance for the school bond issue.
YOUNGSTOWN -- A count of provisional voters was good news for supporters of a 3.9-mill school bond issue in Austintown, but not good enough.
Those who voted provisionally cast 40 ballots in favor of the issue and 23 ballots against it. The issue failed by 38 votes on election night.
With the provisional votes, counted Monday, the margin of defeat shrank to 21 votes -- or 50.1 percent against the bond issue to 49.9 percent in favor of it. The unofficial count stands at 5,430 against and 5,409 in favor.
Because the margin of defeat is less than 0.5 percent, the Mahoning County Board of Elections will automatically recount the ballots as required by state law. The board will certify all ballots at an 8:30 a.m. Nov. 27 meeting and recount the Austintown school votes at 10 a.m. The recount, by machine, could take up to two hours.
Richard Denamen, Austintown's superintendent of schools, isn't optimistic about the bond issue's chances.
"I don't think even a recount will change this," he said. "If it was less than five votes, I'd be optimistic, but 21 is quite a few."
Process: Before the recount, election board workers will examine the ballots and pull questionable ones that did not have the bubbles properly filled in, said Michael V. Sciortino, election board director.
Election officials will look at the questionable ballots to determine the intent of voters on the bond issue question, he said. Voters who circled the bubble or put a check mark or "X" in it instead of filling it in will be considered as casting ballots, Sciortino said.
The board had 71 provisional ballots from Austintown, Sciortino said. Board officials originally said there were 62 from Austintown, but there were nine voters who listed Youngstown as their mailing address when they actually live in Austintown, he said. Of the 71 provisional ballots, 63 voted on the school issue.
What they are: Provisional ballots are those cast by registered voters who moved into the county after the Oct. 9 registration deadline. By state law, the board has to hold those ballots for 10 days to confirm the validity of the voters' registrations and count them the next working day, which was Monday.
The 3.9-mill, 26-year bond issue would allow the school district to borrow $32 million to build a new junior high school and to make renovations at Frank Ohl Middle School, an 85-year-old building that district officials say is too expensive to repair.
If the bond issue fails during the recount, Denamen anticipates putting the issue on next year's primary election ballot.
"We were close, and hopefully sometime between now and May we can convince our voters of the need here in Austintown," Denamen said Monday night at a school board meeting.

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