Election dispute resolved with two presidents - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Election dispute resolved with two presidents

MENTOR, Ohio (AP) - The state's largest public high school will have two senior class presidents to resolve an election dispute that included accusations of ballot-stuffing and racial discrimination.

School Superintendent Jackie Hoynes and the five 11th-grade students who ran for senior-class president announced Monday that the top two finishers would share the class presidency next year.

Hoynes met with the candidates during the weekend to reach the compromise.

School officials were unable to account for more than 40 votes in a race in which the top two votegetters were separated by four votes.

"So many good things can now come from this situation," said Ollie Thomas Jr., who said it was time for the school district to elect its first black class president.

The 10,000-student Mentor district in suburban Cleveland is about 1 percent black, according to a 1999-2000 state report.

Thomas, 17, will share leadership of the class of nearly 900 students with Bob Kinner.

"I'm happy this is over, too," said Kinner, 17. "We worked as a team this weekend to solve this, and we can work as a team in the coming school year."

Thomas had been announced as the winner the day of the May 7 election, but school officials considered conducting another election after rumors of ballot-box stuffing and the discovery of discrepancies in ballot totals.

Thomas feared that if a second election took place, he would lose because he had angered classmates. He had said bigotry was behind the dispute.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which got involved on Thomas' behalf, applauded the decision to have co-presidents.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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