Published Wednesday, June 15, 2011 | 9:31 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, June 15, 2011 | 10:14 p.m.
The North Las Vegas City Council unanimously voted to call for a new election in a fiercely contested race for the Ward 4 seat that was decided by a single vote. After the June 7 general election, it was discovered that one invalid vote was cast.
The council vote for a new election in one precinct between Wade Wagner and incumbent Richard Cherchio was 3-0, with Mayor Shari Buck and Cherchio abstaining. Wagner won the initial election, 1,831 to 1,830 votes.
No date has been set for the new election for voters in Precinct 4306.
“As a councilperson, I’m elected to make decisions on behalf of my constituents and I get to vote on all sorts of things from land issues to financial,” Councilwoman Anita Wood said. “The voter decides who gets to sit here. I don’t get to usurp that decision. It has to be made by the voters.”
Buck recused herself from the vote because a relative was a paid campaign worker for Wagner.
Wood and Councilman Robert Eliason said that while they both gave campaign contributions to and supported Cherchio, it would not affect their vote.
Wagner, a dentist, eked out the win over Cherchio in the June 7 general election by two one-hundredths of a percent. Only 72 votes separated the candidates in the April primary, which Wagner also won.
On June 12, the Clark County Elections Department discovered that one voter cast his ballot in the wrong ward and a poll worker missed the error. The voter had recently moved into Ward 4, but did not update his voter registration, said Larry Lomax, Clark County registrar of voters.
The city retained attorney Matt Griffin to help council members decide whether to canvass the election and allow dissatisfied candidates to contest the vote or request a recount, or call a new election in the precinct in question.
Whatever decision the council made, “it’s not a long shot that a lawsuit will follow,” Griffin said.
Cherchio’s attorney Bradley Schrager urged council members during public comments to order a new election in Precinct 4306. A total of 48 votes were cast in the precinct in the Ward 4 race.
“You need to be able to attest that the votes you have are the true votes cast. I’m sorry to say that that can’t be asserted,” he said. “You are the guardians of the vote, the protectors of the integrity of the election process.”
Wagner’s attorney Todd Bice urged the City Council during public comments to certify the election results and allow for a recount process instead of paying for another election in one precinct. Calling for a new election would disenfranchise all the Ward 4 voters who voted on June 7 because it will allow voters in one precinct to determine the outcome, he said.
“I don’t have to comment on the budget crisis the city faces,” he said. “We’re going to somehow wipe out the election (results) and order an entire new one and incur all that expense on the taxpayers’ backs? We don’t know whether that one purported illegal vote amounted to anything, if the voter even voted for this contest.”
Wagner, who addressed the media after the council vote, said he was disappointed with the decision but not surprised.
He said he did not fault the poll worker for allowing one invalid vote to be cast that brought about the new election.
“Mistakes are made. We all make mistakes,” Wagner said. “The process works. We’re just going to move forward and hopefully it will work in our favor.”
Cherchio said he was happy with the council’s decision and looks forward to the new election.
“It brings to light how important one vote is,” he said. “It shows people how important it is to get out and speak their mind.”
The City Council will meet next week to discuss when to hold the new election. Voters will have at least three weeks to fill out absentee ballots. Cherchio's term on the council expires July 1.