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Absentees to determine Washington prothonotary

Thursday, November 06, 2003

By Janice Crompton, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The rancorous race for Washington County prothonotary could continue for several more weeks, after it was discovered yesterday that 23 absentee ballots had yet to be counted.

Only four votes -- out of the more than 46,000 ballots cast in the race -- separate the leader, incumbent Phyllis Ranko Matheny, and her Democratic challenger, Judith Fisher.

Matheny, 62, of North Strabane, and Fisher, 64, of South Strabane, have been trading barbs and insults for months.

Fisher, the current county jury commissioner, and Matheny were friends once but had a falling out months ago, and the feud became more bitter when Fisher edged out Matheny for the Democratic nod for prothonotary in the primary election. Matheny secured the Republican nomination through a last-minute write-in effort.

On Tuesday, county elections director Larry Spahr said all absentee ballots had been counted and figured into the vote totals, with 23,043 going to Matheny and 23,039 to Fisher.

Spahr said yesterday, however, that 23 absentee ballots were delivered shortly before 5 p.m. Friday, the deadline to receive such ballots. By that time, ballot boxes being forwarded to precincts had been sealed, so the ballots were withheld until the county canvassing board could count them, which should begin Monday, Spahr said.

The board also will recount votes countywide and certify the election, probably within a month, Spahr said.

Janice Crompton can be reached at or 724-223-0156.

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