Lilley contests absentee ballots

Tensions were high at the Jay Township Supervisor's meeting on Thursday evening when it was revealed that Supervisor Murray Lilley contested five absentee ballots filed in Tuesday's primary election. The issue was first brought up during the visitor's comments portion of the meeting by township resident Jim Huff. "I think it's a d--- shame what's going on with this voting deal here with him, these absentee ballots. I understand that [Lilley] was contesting elderly people, people that are in the service," Huff said. Lilley responded to Huff's remarks, acknowledging that he had indeed contested five votes. "It's my right to contest. I paid the money to contest them. I'm allowed to contest them, just like you are," Lilley said. "If I didn't feel it was right, I contested them."Huff further questioned how Lilley could tell if it was right if someone was in the service. Lilley responded by asking how he would know that. Huff suggested that he should try checking things out first. Supervisor Jeremy Rippey, who was a candidate in the election, responded that he was upset upon hearing about the contested absentee ballots, indicating that he is related to at least some of the individuals."I was upset on those being that they were my family. I thought you would have known that my stepfather is in the service," Rippey said to Lilley. Lilley responded that he was not aware. Rippey added that he had also received a few phone calls regarding the matter. "I feel that it hurts the voting process," Rippey said.Lilley disagreed. "Ten years ago somebody filled out 20 or more absentee ballots and it was the same signature. It was the same person that signed them and sent them in, over 20. So if somebody doesn't watch, [look] what could happen. We could have that same scenario again," Lilley said. Lilley also remarked that the matter had nothing to do with the supervisor's meeting. Following the meeting, Rose Secco contacted The Daily Press, indicating that her absentee ballot was one of the five contested. Secco explained that she requires the use of a wheelchair or walker to get around and has not been out of her home since March. Because Lilley contested her ballot, she explained that she now is required to attend a hearing in Ridgway on Monday morning. "I just can't go up there," Secco said. She also suggested that Lilley only contested the ballots of individuals whom he believed would not vote for the candidates he preferred. On Friday afternoon, Elk County Director of Elections and Voter Registration Kimberly Frey confirmed that Lilley had indeed contested five absentee ballots. "He put a $10 deposit down on each ballot. We now then have set up a hearing on those ballots for Monday," Frey explained. The individuals whose ballots Lilley contested are requested to come to the meeting, which Frey indicated will be held at the Courthouse Annex. "Each side gives testimony and then the election board decides then whether to count those absentees or not," Frey said.