Lynn Chapin's home is not in the first ward. But knowing what that means for her election to the first-ward council seat is not that simple.
Tom Gerrity, director of the board of elections, asked Kathy Kuhlman of the county's tax map department to use her mapping equipment and the city's ordinance outlining ward boundaries to create a map showing correct boundaries.
Kuhlman also gave a copy to the Reflector. The map clearly shows that Chapin's home at 95 N. Foster St. is in the fourth ward.
Board of election officials are now looking for legal advice on how to fill the seat if Chapin's eight-vote lead holds after absentee and provisional ballots are tallied. If she can't take the seat, does the Democratic party name her replacement or does Republican Scott Krichbaum win the seat? Lawyers will decide.
"We'll be hitting some law books," said Richard Hauser, president of the board. "We've already started." Hauser, a lawyer, is chairman of the Huron County Democratic party.
James Orth, who questioned first-ward candidate Lynn Chapin's residency at board offices on Tuesday, said he is also hiring an attorney to make sure the contradictions between city ordinances outlining ward boundaries and the board's computer information are solved.
"I'm hiring a private attorney with my own money," he said. "It'll cost at least $3,000. I'm going to follow this through until it's corrected."
Orth, a first-ward resident, said he and his son Jason realized that the board of elections might be using incorrect boundaries when they compared the location of Chapin's house to the location of Jason's house on Election Day.
Chapin said Thursday that her home used to be in the fourth ward, but she was notified by the board of elections in 2003 that the boundaries had changed based on the 2000 census.
"I don't think anybody did anything illegal," Orth said. "It's just a mistake, but it must be fixed." He has hired local attorney Harold Freeman to research the issue.
"This is not political," Orth said. "I don't care if it's a Democrat or a Republican representing me. I just want to make sure someone who lives in my ward represents me."
Orth served on the city's planning commission for 23 years.
Gerrity said his staff is still collecting information to turn over to the full board and Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler.
"I'm sure something's going to happen on this in the next couple of days," he said. "Right now we're just trying to pull everything together. In the very near future we'll probably be talking with the prosecuting attorney. There are a lot of 'what if' questions."
Hauser said that the timing of the discovery of mistakes will be crucial to the solution. The board of elections certified Chapin as eligible to run for the seat because their computer system listed her as a first-ward resident.
Hauser said Orth raised the question too late to disqualify Chapin as a candidate. Hauser said the matter is an issue of ballot qualifications versus office qualifications. Since she was certified to run for the first-ward seat and no one raised any objections before the election, the final results for the seat may stand, Hauser explained.
But city officials must determine whether she can legally represent the first ward while living the in the fourth ward. If the city determines that their laws keep her from being sworn into office, Hauser said, then the seat must be filled by the Democratic Party since a Democratic candidate won the most votes.
"I don't have any idea where this thing is going," he said.
Eventually the county prosecutor, city law director and secretary of state's office may all get involved, Hauser said.
Even a decision of who wins the first-ward seat doesn't settle the matter, however.
If Chapin's house is listed in the wrong ward in the board's computer system, other address are also incorrectly listed.
No one will speculate on how votes cast by other residents incorrectly listed in the first ward will be handled.
Gerrity said computer information was entered into the board's system before he and Sharon Locke, deputy director, joined the office so he doesn't know exactly how it was entered and who decided how to determine ward lines. But he did say board of elections personnel entered the information.
"It's going to get discussed," said Hauser.
Gerrity said a special board meeting may be called to discuss the issues before the next regular meeting on Nov. 16.