Elkins Election: What the heck is a “canvass”?

By: Sutton Stokes

As we reported here, Elkins Common Council met on Monday as the Elkins Municipal Election Canvassing Board to “canvass” the election. We reported further, that only one ward’s election day result—the apparent victory in Fifth Ward of incumbent David Parker over second-place challenger Cody Thompson—could have been changed as a result of the canvass.

Why is that? And furthermore, what the heck is a canvass, anyway?

The reason that only Fifth Ward’s results could have been changed as a result of Monday’s canvass is because a canvass is not a recount. Instead, it is intended only to (1) account for the total number of paper ballots, used and unused, and (2) to consider whether or not to accept provisional ballots. In fact, it would have been illegal for council to examine the votes marked on any of the non-provisional ballots. In each of the other four city election wards, the difference between the first and second place vote totals was much larger than the number of provisional ballots cast, so Fifth Ward’s was the only outcome that could have changed at the canvass. As we reported, however, by the end of the canvass, Parker’s lead had doubled from two to four votes.

After a canvass is concluded, the results of the election become what state code calls “declared” and all provisional and non-provisional ballots are placed under a seal that may only be broken in the event that a candidate requests a recount. Candidates have 48 hours from the time the canvass adjourns to request a recount in writing to the city clerk and to post a $300 bond. When those 48 hours have elapsed, the canvassing board then reconvenes to “certify” the election results in any ward for which no recount request has been filed.

According to the West Virginia Secretary of State, after a written request for a recount has been received, council has “an additional 48 hours in which to send notice to all candidates for the office for which the recount is requested, giving the date, time and place of the recount. The time for the recount can be no sooner than three days after the notice is served.”

At press time, the city clerk had not received any recount requests. Click here to view the “declared” results of the 2017 Elkins Municipal Election.

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