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Illegal ballot adds uncertainty to North Las Vegas council race

Updated Sunday, June 12, 2011 | 4:16 p.m.

Richard Cherchio

Richard Cherchio

The close race for the Ward 4 seat on the North Las Vegas City Council might have gotten closer.

The fiercely contested race was decided Tuesday by a single vote, with Wade Wagner ousting incumbent Richard Cherchio. On Sunday, Sun columnist Jon Ralston reported election officials have discovered one voter cast his ballot in the wrong ward and a poll worker missed the error.

The voter hadn't changed his registration information, a source told Ralston.

Ralston reported that North Las Vegas hired Matt Griffin, former deputy secretary of state in charge of elections, to present a recommendation to the city council on Wednesday. The council could call for a new election, a new vote in that precinct or allow voters in that precinct who legally cast ballots to vote again.

Wagner received 1,831 of the 3,661 votes cast, beating Cherchio by two one-hundredths of a percent. Only 72 votes separated the candidates in the April primary, which Wagner also won.

Cherchio issued a statement Sunday saying he was notified about the illegal ballot.

"I have been notified by the city and the Clark County elections department that a voter cast an illegal ballot in North Las Vegas City Council Ward 4 election," he said. "The city and the elections department are in the process of determining the most appropriate way to proceed as prescribed by law. Until they let me know what their recommendation is, there is nothing more that I can say at this time."

A union-driven attack on Cherchio dominated much of the campaign, as residents were flooded with mailers criticizing his tenure and approach to public safety.

Cherchio was appointed to the council in 2009 and approved a number of cuts to public safety as the city struggled with steep budget deficits. As many as 259 layoffs, including 40 firefighters and 43 police officers, could be needed to close a $30 million hole in this year’s city budget, a move Cherchio supported.

Wagner, a dentist, seized on the issue and said the city needed to increase its public safety presence to attract new residents and businesses, a position unions supported.

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