- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 26, 2002

HAGERSTOWN, Md. Election officials began recounting votes yesterday in a close race that apparently knocked state House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. out of office.
Republican challenger LeRoy Myers, a Washington County building contractor new to politics, led Mr. Taylor by 72 votes going into the recount of about 11,200 ballots in District 1C, which covers parts of Allegany and Washington counties. The margin included a write-in vote for Mr. Myers that Washington County election officials have acknowledged and planned to add to the official tally during their manual recount.
Mr. Taylor requested the recount despite acknowledging that the chance of a different outcome is slim. He has been a Democratic delegate for 28 years, the past eight as speaker, the top leadership position in the House of Delegates.
Allegany County began recounting votes by hand in Cumberland at 11 a.m., right after the Board of State Canvassers certified all returns from the Nov. 5 election at a meeting in Annapolis. By the end of the day, Allegany's four counters two Republicans and two Democrats had finished 13 of the 15 precincts with no change in the results, said Armand Pannone Jr., attorney for the local election board.
Elections Administrator Catherine O. Davis said they hoped to finish the tally of more than 7,100 ballots today, but were prepared to work tomorrow if necessary.
In Hagerstown, eight counters, also split evenly along party lines, planned to start work this morning. Nearly 4,100 votes were cast in the district's four Washington County precincts.
Roger Schlossberg, attorney for the Washington County election board, was hopeful that the Washington County recount would conclude today.
He said Washington County counters probably would find some discrepancies because voters there used paper ballots tallied by optical-scanning machines. Such machines cannot read ballots on which voters circled or underlined a name instead of filling in a gap in a printed arrow pointing to a candidate's name, he said.
"If the first recount has a different number from the machine result, we're required to have a second recount to make sure the hand recount was accurate," Mr. Schlossberg said.
The Allegany recount is the state's first involving computerized, touch-screen voting machines, which were introduced this year in Allegany and three other Maryland counties. Election officials used new, blank memory cards to transfer data from the 70 Allegany County machines to a central computer, which produced paper images of the ballots for hand counting.
Results from the same type of machines, made by Diebold Inc., proved reliable in a recount earlier this month in Georgia, according to the Georgia Secretary of State's Office. No variances were found in an electronic recount of 72,212 ballots from 17 counties, spokeswoman Kara Sinkule said.
Mr. Taylor got 61 percent of the votes in his home county of Allegany. Mr. Myers got 70 percent of the Washington County vote, where the turnout was greater.
As part of a court-ordered change in the state's redistricting plan, heavily Republican Washington County precincts were added to Mr. Taylor's district after the nominating deadline passed.
Mr. Taylor may have alienated some conservative voters by supporting an Allegany horse-racing track that eventually could include slot machines, and by voting for handgun trigger locks and ballistic fingerprinting in 2000. Mr. Myers opposes slot machines.

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