Xenia school levy now a tie; elections board failed to tabulate some results

Recount starts Friday morning on seven-year income tax levy renewal

Editor’s note: Three paragraphs in the bottom half of this story have been updated to clarify the recount procedure

The Greene County Board of Elections announced Thursday that its previous count of votes in the Nov. 8 Xenia school levy ballot issue was wrong, and the race is actually a dead heat.

The official results that the BOE certified and released last week showed the income tax levy renewal passing by one vote — 6,302 votes in favor, and 6,301 votes against.

Board of Elections Director Alisha Lampert said Thursday that the vote is actually at 6,302 to 6,302.

Because last week’s result was within one-half of one percent, it was already planned for a recount, which will still occur, starting at 9 a.m. Friday and continuing either Saturday or Monday, according to Lampert.

If a tax levy vote ends in a tie, the levy is considered rejected, because ballot language requires a “majority” of votes in favor for it to pass.

Lampert said the last batch of late-arriving absentee ballots (ballots that were postmarked on time, but arrived at the BOE after Election Day) were not tabulated into the final results “due to human error.”

ExplorePrevious story: Xenia school levy passing by 1 vote

She said that small batch included ballots from various parts of the county and while it changed some vote totals, it didn’t affect the actual outcome of any other race. She did not say how many total ballots were in the batch.

Asked to confirm, based on the one-vote switch, that there was only one ballot in that batch that affected the Xenia school levy outcome, Lampert said, “I haven’t sat down and done the math on it. We’ve been really busy. If you compare those numbers, whatever it changed is how many ballots from the Xenia school district were in there.”

Lampert said the error was discovered “thanks to the checks and balances we have in place.”

The error was not caught Nov. 22, when the county elections board voted to certify “final, official results” with the levy passing by one vote.

Lampert said the next day, Board of Elections staff began preparing for the recount and discovered that one of the batches had not been tabulated.

“When we discovered the error, that’s why we’re able to amend our official (results) because stuff like this happens, and it’s not uncommon,” Lampert said.

Rob Nichols, spokesman for the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, which oversees elections, said SoS officials are now working with the Greene County elections board to help answer any questions they may have. Nichols was not critical of the Greene County board.

“This is an example of the array of checks and balances in the system working as they are intended to work, and will be further buttressed when the counties perform their post-election audits to ensure the accuracy of the results,” Nichols said.

The tax levy in question asked voters to renew a 0.5% income tax for the Xenia school district for seven more years.

The district has a small portion that extends into Warren County. Results posted on the Greene County BOE website Thursday afternoon show the Greene County portion of the vote at 6,295 in favor and 6,297 against. But the 12 votes cast in the Warren County portion of the district were seven in favor and five against, which appears to put the results at 6,302-6,302.

Xenia schools spokeswoman Kristy Creel said Thursday afternoon that the district will have someone on hand to observe the recount.

Updated recount information

There was some confusion Thursday on recount procedures.

Lampert clarified Friday morning that the BOE will hand-count certain precincts making up at least 5% of the votes cast on the levy. Then they will scan and re-upload the digital vote files from those precincts, and compare the results. If the hand-count and digital files don’t match after three counts, the BOE will then hand-count every vote cast on the levy.

But if the 5% hand-count does match the digital files, the BOE will cease the hand-count, re-upload the digital files for all precincts one more time, as well as the paper ballot results, and those numbers will become the new final results.

“It is amazing when it comes down to one vote,” said Creel of Xenia schools. “We’re looking forward to a good resolution.”

Creel said the tax levy is not set to officially expire until Dec. 31, 2023, so if the levy ends up not passing, residents would continue paying the tax in 2023, while the school board decides whether to put it back on the ballot.

Lampert said members of the public are welcome to observe recounts at the Board of Elections office.

“Voters should remember the redundancies within the system, recounts, post-election audits, and a recorded paper trail of each and every ballot protect the integrity of our elections and provides accurate election results,” Lampert said.

Beavercreek streets levy

Also Thursday, the Greene County BOE finished a recount of votes for the Beavercreek streets levy, with no change in the results. Voters approved the 2.15-mill property tax levy with 10,585 votes in favor, and 10,505 votes against — a 50.19% to 49.81% ratio.

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