Barbara Capozzi, who came up 40 votes short in her bid for the Democratic nomination to replace City Councilwoman Anna C. Verna, filed suit Tuesday alleging that the returns should be thrown out or modified because one candidate's name was improperly stickered over on an unspecified number of voting machines.
Capozzi asked Common Pleas Court to either throw out the results of the May 17 primary election or exclude all votes cast on machines where the name of Damon K. Roberts had been covered over.
A spokesman for the apparent winner of the Second District Council race, State Rep. Kenyatta Johnson, described the lawsuit as "ridiculous" and said it would disenfranchise scores of voters.
Capozzi's court filing noted that she was the only white candidate among four candidates for the Democratic nomination, the others being Johnson, Roberts, and Tracey Gordon.
"Mr. Johnson made a concerted effort to secure his spot as the only black candidate in the race," Capozzi's complaint alleged, both by challenging Roberts' nomination petitions and pressuring Roberts and Gordon to drop out of the race.
Roberts eventually agreed to drop out, but not until May 4, too late to have his name removed from the ballot.
Judge Allen Tereshko signed an order removing Roberts as a candidate and allowing that fact to be posted inside polling places. But he turned down Roberts' request to have his name stickered over on voting machines.
Capozzi's petition asked that votes be thrown out in any divisions where Roberts' name had been covered up, but she did not specify particular divisions.
At a city commissioners' meeting last week, Capozzi alleged that despite Tereshko's order, Roberts' name was taped over on numerous machines in the 36th and 40th Wards.
In fact, there were 10 voting divisions in the 36th Ward and 24 divisions in the 40th Ward in which Roberts did not receive a single vote. In those 34 divisions, Johnson built up a 437-vote margin over Capozzi - more than enough to change the election results if those divisions were thrown out.
But there were 14 additional divisions in other wards - the 26th, 30th, 39th, and 48th - where Roberts received no votes. Capozzi outpolled Johnson in 12 of those 14 divisions, building up a 660-vote margin.
The bottom line: If all the divisions where Roberts had zero votes were excluded from the final totals, Capozzi would still trail Johnson by 263 votes instead of the 40-vote margin now in place.
In the next-closest primary race, the contest for the Republican mayoral nomination, former Catholic school teacher Karen Brown defeated real estate agent John Featherman by 64 votes.
Featherman said Tuesday that he was conceding the race but would not support Brown in the general election. "We have drastically different views," he said.