By Jack Chavez, Staff Writer
(Oct. 6, 2022) One week later, nothing has changed.
The Ocean Pines Association’s hand recount of ballots and votes in the 2022 board of directors election yielded plenty of drama in recent weeks but in the end, directors Stephen Jacobs, Stuart Lakernick and Monica Rakowski retained their seats.
The recount Friday by the Elections Committee was necessitated after the directors learned last Saturday that the number of votes counted and accepted at the association’s annual meeting in August far exceeded what was possible, given the number of ballots issued.
After the last paper ballot was hand-counted, the Elections Committee came away with 940 fewer votes than what as validated at the annual meeting — a variance of 10.7 percent.
While Lakernick lost votes in the recount, he maintained a healthy margin over his opponents and Jacobs gained votes from the over-counted original. Rakowski, however, had to sweat out the recount but stayed ahead of first runner-up, Amy Peck, but by 15 votes.
Peck has also been one of the loudest voices calling attention to the issue. She was in attendance when the recount got underway Friday morning.
“I give all the credit to the Elections Committee (for taking up the recount),” Peck said during the recount. She had maintained at the outset that she did not expect the results to change and she was correct. Nevertheless, she said, “I’m glad it’s happening. I hope it calms down the drama.”
The drama, apparently, is the product of ballot weighting, which essentially means association members have as many opportunities to vote as they have lots. Owning three lots, for instance, would mean a homeowner in this year’s election could vote up to nine times — one vote for each of the three open seats.
But Peck said she’s talked to multi-lot members who found the protocol confusing. Some people assumed one ballot would be counted multiple times, some assumed they could put multiple ballots in one envelope and others submitted subsequent ballots with no envelope at all.
“Here’s how I understand it,” Peck explained after the recount. “If you own multiple lots, if you voted electronically, your votes were weighted. If you voted by paper … you were told you had to come get extra ballots. That was not made clear in the instructions. I know of people that owned multiple lots and their votes were weighted.”
“(Where others are coming from is) the extra ballot thing is just a mess. I asked for confirmation on the number of lots. I did not get that. I asked for confirmation of the number of envelopes. I didn’t get that either.”
Despite the lack of clarity and the fact that many in the community would certainly support Peck if she pursued a new election, she said there is “no way” she would contest it further.
“We had a candidate sue last election,” she said. “I think it’d be terrible for Ocean Pines to have two elections in a row where an election has to sue. This is a volunteer service.”
Peck pointed to another concern regarding the unpaid nature of the director positions.
“This is something future candidates will have to consider,” she said. “This candidate that won had extensive signage, mailers, very expensive mailing. If that’s what it’s going to take to get elected, I find that troubling.”
“(As for the recount) the only good that can come from this is policies and reporting put into place to ensure this never happens again.”
OPA President Doug Parks and Elections Committee Chair Carol Ludwig did not return requests for comments for this story.