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November 14, 2008

Election officials face possible special election after ruling

TERRE HAUTE — Vigo County election officials face the possibility of figuring out how to pay for a special election for the mayor of Terre Haute.

The Indiana Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision Thursday, ruled that a special election be conducted after the court ruled Mayor Duke Bennett was ineligible to run in 2007 and a vacancy now exists for mayor of Terre Haute.

Bennett has 30 days to file an appeal to rehear the case before the Indiana Court of Appeals, but if denied, has an additional 30 days to appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court. In the meantime, Bennett remains mayor of Terre Haute.

A special election would be conducted if the Indiana Supreme Court decides not to hear the case or if the state’s highest court rules in favor of former Mayor Kevin Burke.

Vigo County Clerk Patricia Mansard, a member of the Vigo County Election Board, said Thursday she has more questions than answers.

“What are the options if Bennett appeals this, and at what point do we have a special election? Then, there are the administration questions. We have no budget as of now to conduct a special election in 2009. We have no contract with our election system provider for an election next year,” Mansard said.

“The county is in some pretty tight fiscal constraints and an election is a very expensive thing, so I am wondering how we manage to afford it,” Mansard said.

The county would conduct a special election, then get reimbursed for that election from the city. In a news conference Thursday, Bennett said it cost the city $580,000 for the last municipal election.

Mansard said the county’s most-recent election contract was $670,000 for Election Systems and Software to manage election voting machines through two primaries and two general elections. That does not include other costs, which put the price more than $800,000.

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