Drago fails to win write-in vote for Sussex Council

GEORGETOWN — Longshot write-in candidate Patricia “Patti” Drago of Lewes unofficially garnered more than 10,000 votes in the 2020 election.

That effort was not enough to top Republican primary winner Mark Schaeffer in the Sussex County Council District 3 race.

Mr. Schaeffer amassed 16,547 votes on Election Day. He proclaimed Tuesday night an unofficial victory, confident his support was more than enough to secure the District 3 council term and succeed councilman Irwin “I.G.” Burton, whom Mr. Schaeffer defeated by 44 votes in the September primary.

“I think it’s absolute,” said Mr. Schaeffer.

Patti Drago

Unofficial final write-in tallies released by the Sussex County Department of Elections Wednesday afternoon showed 10,853 total write-in votes cast. Ms. Drago received 10,402 votes, Mr. Schaeffer landed 13 write-ins, and “other” received 438.

Earlier Wednesday, initial Department of Elections write-in results showed Ms. Drago receiving 5,227 votes, Mr. Schaeffer with three and 340 for “other,” with another 5,282 write-ins “pending assignment.”

That data created confusion and seeking clarification Ms. Drago said she was informed via phone message from Sussex County Board of Elections Director Kenneth McDowell that those figures were for mail-in ballots only.

“Is it both mail-in and machine ballots?” said Ms. Drago. “I got his voice mail. Left a message. Got a return voice mail where he clearly said that, ‘No, what I am looking at is mail-in ballots only, where I was written in.’ He said they are still pulling information off the machines and they will let me know when he has the machine vote.”

That wasn’t the case.

Mark Schaeffer

“Those ‘pending’ votes were from the machine,” said Mr. McDowell, who said he emailed Ms. Drago “and apologized for the misunderstanding. I didn’t quite understand what she was trying to say this (Wednesday) morning. That was my fault. I couldn’t quite understand her message. I think I gave her some bad information.”

All election results are unofficial until they are certified by the board of canvass in Superior Court Thursday, Mr. McDowell said.

Ms. Drago sought the county council position as an unaffiliated write-in candidate shortly after Mr. Schaeffer’s narrow GOP primary victory over incumbent Mr. Burton in mid-September, and an unsuccessful attempt to entice Mr. Burton to seek to retain his council seat as a write-in candidate.

“I have known from the beginning you don’t step into a campaign six weeks before Election Day as a write-in candidate with no party affiliation, and not think it’s going to be an easy go,” said Ms. Drago. “I am delighted we’ve done this. I have no regrets. I think that a lot more people now understand what Sussex County Council does, the decisions it makes and how it affects people’s everyday lives.”