VandenHeede retains council seat thanks to luck of the draw

Published 9:28 pm Monday, November 17, 2003

By By JAN GRIFFEY / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Dan VandenHeede hadn't bought a lottery ticket in five years, but he bought one Friday night.
On Friday afternoon, he won a new term to his second ward Niles City Council seat by the luck of the draw.
VandenHeede, who has served on the city council for the last four years, was elected by a margin of two votes -- 120 to 118 -- over challenger, political newcomer Greg O'Toole, in the Tuesday, Nov. 4, election.
O'Toole challenged the vote tally, asking for a recount.
Friday afternoon at the Berrien County Clerk's office at the County Courthouse in St. Joseph, the Berrien County Board of Canvassers conducted that recount, which they determined to be a dead draw, 118 to 118.
After coming up with the tie, VandenHeede said the election officials placed two slips of paper in a container. On one was written, "elected," and on the other was written, "not elected." O'Toole drew first and chose the "not elected" slip of paper.
VandenHeede said the canvassers threw out two votes, which were apparently counted by election workers in Niles.
The two discarded ballots contained comments written on them by the persons who cast the ballots.
For example, of the two discarded ballots, one was cast for each candidate, "which, if the count was 120 to 118, would have made the total 119 for me and 117 for Greg," VandenHeede said.
However, the canvassers' count was 118 to 118.
Niles' second ward was the last precinct to report on election day here because election workers counted ballots in the close race six times, workers said that day.