Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Game of chance breaks tie in trustee race

by Steve Targo

February 16, 2012

BLOOMFIELD — On Saturday, victory wasn't in the cards for Rich Olenoski.

On Feb. 7, he received the same number of votes as Sara Schulz, 114. They tied for one of the two open trustee spots on the new Bloomfield Village Board.

At Saturday's Board of Canvassers meeting, election officials and the candidates met to break the tie. Schulz won. However, on Monday, Olenoski said he filed for a recount with Walworth County Clerk of Courts Sheila Reiff, the official overseeing the election.

The recount was expected to occur Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the Bloomfield Town Hall.

"Machines do make mistakes and sometimes people don't mark these ballots properly," Olenoski said about why he filed.

On Saturday, the tie was broken by the candidates playing a game of chance. Bloomfield Village Clerk Martie Wells said herself, Chief Election Inspector Rosemary Badame and the candidates agreed on a deck of playing cards.

Wells said she brought in a brand-new deck, opened it in front of everyone and it was cut by the candidates.

"Aces were declared high at the beginning, before we even broke the cards," Wells said.

She said Schulz cut the deck first, then Olenoski.

Olenoski had first pick. He drew a jack of hearts.

Schulz drew a king of hearts. She was declared the winner.

"When Rich drew the jack, I was sure I was in trouble," Schulz said during a telephone interview Monday. "Cards and I usually don't get along. (Winning the election) is kind of like winning a lottery."

However, in a recount, election officials will verify the results.

But Schulz said she supports the recount because it was too close a race to have it end without double-checking.

"It's part of the Democratic process," she said.

News of the tie surprised both candidates.

Schulz said once they announced the results of the race, the first thing that went through her mind was "no way."

"We had six people running," she said. "What are the odds that two of us were actually going to come up with the same number?"

During a Feb. 9 interview, Olenoski also expressed astonishment.

"I said to myself there's a few friends of mine who didn't vote me," Olenoski said with a laugh.

Before the tie-breaker

It's been a history-making race for the new village of Bloomfield.

Wells said this is the first tie she has witnessed in a local election.

She has been involved in local elections in two different capacities since 1997. That's when she first ran for chairperson. In the early 2000s, she became town clerk. Today, she's clerk for both the village and the town.

On Feb. 9, Reiff said it's also the first time a recent state law was employed which stipulated they must wait for all absentee ballots to arrive.

She said they waited for one absentee vote. The deadline for that person's ballot to arrive was Friday at 5 p.m.

"The absentee ballot didn't come in," Wells said. "It was an overseas ballot (from a man) over in London."

And it's the first election to determine the members of the Bloomfield Village Board.

It was an unusual election in some respects, but one which became necessary Dec. 20, 2011 — the day a 21-square-mile region northeast of Highway H in Bloomfield Townships became incorporated as a village.

According to state statutes, a village has between 40 and 50 days to conduct its first board election. Also according to state statutes, it is up to the county clerk of courts to oversee that election. At the time the date was set, the village of Bloomfield didn't have a clerk.

The Bloomfield Village and Town boards have the same five members. They created a five-person Village Board consisting of a village president, two village trustees who have two-year terms and two trustees who have one-year terms.

The only contested race Feb. 7 was for the one-year trustee spots.

Olenoski and Schulz were seeking them. On Feb. 7, Gary Grolle walked away with the most votes, 135. Below Schulz and Olenoski were Bill Gaede, 85; Susan Bernstein, 76; and Jodi Kelleher, 70.

The outcome of this race may have changed Wednesday. See next week's Regional News for more about the recount.

On Monday, in separate interviews, Olenoski and Schulz were asked what if they end up losing the Feb. 7 election.

"Then I lost," Olenoski said. "I'll take it as that, but I just want to verify this was properly done. Then, I'll be back next time."

Schulz said this was her first election and it was a fun learning experience.

"I would be running next year a second time, regardless of the outcome," she said.