Absentee ballots in question

| Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, 12:21 a.m.

FORD CITY — Just three votes in the general municipal election on Tuesday are already at issue between two councilmen, raised by one member whose seat is not up for election against one who has competition.

Councilman Jerry Miklos said on Friday he will challenge on Election Day the absentee ballots cast by three adult children of the current council President Lou Vergari, a Democrat running for one of three available 2nd Ward council seats.

“I'm going to challenge it,” Miklos said on Friday.

Miklos said about six borough residents approached him about the matter, asking if Vergari's children should be allowed to cast an absentee vote in their father's ward if they live elsewhere.

According to Miklos, those voicing concerns approached him to take action out of fear of Vergari and because Miklos is a council member. Miklos' position on council is not up for re-election this year.

Miklos declined to identify those who he said were concerned.

“For some reason, everybody's afraid of Mr. Vergari,” Miklos said, adding that he was concerned about bringing the issue up to the judge of elections at the 2nd Ward polling site since that position is held by Lou Vergari's wife, Natalie Vergari.

Lou Vergari said he and Natalie have four children who are living out of state. He acknowledged that three children (Anthony Vergari, Mia Vergari and Nina Rogers) plan to cast an absentee vote, and one (Vito Vergari) plans to vote in person in Ford City on Tuesday.

According to the Armstrong Election Bureau, all four are listed as Democrats under the same address at 1210 Fourth Ave., Ford City.

“They're away from home,” Vergari said. “This is the only place they're registered to vote.”

In order to establish if an absentee vote violation has occurred, there would need to be some sort of proof showing a person has permanently relocated, said Wendy Buzard, the county's election bureau director

She said she has no reason to believe that the submitted applications were not eligible but noted that any voter can go to the polls and challenge an absentee elector.

However, she said, that formal complaint cannot be anonymous and must be signed by an individual. There is a $10 fee per challenge.

Since it's close to Tuesday's election, there isn't much time to investigate a challenge, Buzard said.

“So if a complaint is filed (at this late date), we would probably pull those ballots aside until after a solicitor reviews them,” she said, noting that the official computation of election results does not begin until the Friday after Election Day.

Buzard added that Natalie Vergari's position as judge of elections “is not an issue since she takes an oath of office.”

According to Buzard, there are 40,993 registered voters in the county, with a total of 285 absentee ballots.

That means less than 1 percent of voters in the county plan to cast absentee ballots.

In Ford City's 2nd Ward North, six of the 370 voters applied for absentee ballots.

The borough's 2nd Ward South, where the Vergaris are registered, had six absentee ballot applications out of 509 voters.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or bbeatty@tribweb.com.

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