In Marple Race, Every Vote Matters Indeed A Committeeman Backed By A Gop Opposition Group Won Initially By One Absentee Ballot. The Party Is Appealing.

Posted: May 03, 2000

MARPLE — They lit their cigars too fast.

In last month's election, the local Republican Party leaders backed a challenger they predicted would unseat gadfly Abe Silverzweig as a GOP committeeman.

The candidate was Bill Harvey, a painter, whose wife, Barbara, is a longtime Republican committeewoman. Silverzweig was backed by an upstart opposition group, the Marple Republican Team.

The leaders were barely, but discomfittingly, wrong. Silverzweig won by one absentee vote in the Second Precinct in the Fourth Ward.

Since then, organization Republicans have not stopped asking their own questions.

First, they filed a complaint with the Delaware County Board of Elections to dismiss two ballots cast for Silverzweig, claiming the check marks were curious-looking.

George Cordes, a lawyer for the Marple Republican Party, also asked the county to throw out all 10 absentee ballots cast in the race. They were opened illegally on the afternoon of Election Day, according to county election officials.

At a hearing last week before the Election Board, county officials disqualified only one ballot. The Republican Party has appealed that decision and will argue its case before a judge in Delaware County Court on May 15.

"I can't believe all the attention paid to this," Silverzweig said of the race, in which 151 votes were tallied. "It would seem they don't want me, which is stupid, because I'm not going to go away."

But Maureen Muehsam, the newly reelected chairman of the Republican Party, said her determination had nothing to do with Silverzweig.

"If this happened in any other precinct, we would have challenged it too," Muehsam said. "Unfortunately, it was in Abe's precinct, and because he is so outspoken about everything, people are saying it is about personalities."

Cordes, a Newtown Republican committeeman, said questions arose during a recanvassing of the ballots. On one, a voter penciled an X next to a box for John McCain and, according to Cordes, a shaky check mark next to Silverzweig's box.

Another ballot showed a line running across boxes for both Harvey and Silverzweig. That ballot was dismissed, causing a tie vote in the race. County officials suggested a coin toss, which was rejected by Cordes.

Yesterday, Silverzweig said he hoped the contest, which has generated heated discussion on the township's Web site, would be decided by the toss.

"This is totally ridiculous, and I don't know what they are trying to do," he said. "I just want it to be over."

Chani Katzen's e-mail address is katzenc@phillynews.com

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