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Robert A. (Bob) Markovich

Robert A. (Bob) Markovich

Hammond City Councilman Bob Markovich is dropping his bid to overturn the results of a razor-thin loss in the May 7 Democratic primary, his attorney said Monday.

Markovich, D-At Large, sued the Lake County Board of Elections and his primary opponents last month, leading to a recount Friday at the county government center.

A special recount commission determined nine absentee ballots were improperly submitted and should be tossed out, but the commission was unable to assess which candidates had received those votes. As a result, a special election would have been required in the six Hammond precincts where the ballots were cast.

An evidentiary hearing scheduled for Monday morning was canceled after Markovich decided not to move forward with his challenge, his attorney, Justin Murphy, told The Times. The eight-term incumbent was “heartbroken” over the dilemma, but called primary opponent Katrina Alexander over the weekend to concede, Murphy said.

Markovich, who has held his at-large seat since 1987, was not available for comment Monday.

Markovich finished fourth in the race for Hammond’s three at-large council seats, just four votes shy of Alexander. Incumbents Janet Venecz, D-At Large, and Daniel Spitale, D-At Large, finished first and second, respectively.

After the elections board certified the results May 17, Markovich sued in Lake Superior Court, asking for a recount and a hearing on the merits of the contest. Judge John Pera granted both motions May 28 and ordered the formation of a three-member, bipartisan recount commission to examine the vote tally in all 46 Hammond precincts.

The recount commission was composed of Alfredo Estrada, a Democrat and Merrillville-based attorney; Christian Jorgensen, a Republican Lake County councilman and an attorney; and James Oliver, a county elections board mechanic. It conducted the recount Friday under the supervision of Murphy, elections board Director Michelle Fajman, and board legal adviser John Reed.

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At Markovich’s request, the commission examined all of the absentee ballots cast as well as machine ballots from the 3rd District, where he lost by a wide margin. The commission found nine absentee ballots were invalid because the signatures on the ballots did not match signatures on file with the elections board, according to Jorgensen.

It was unclear if Markovich would have won if those absentee ballots had matching signatures, Jorgensen said, adding that none of the machine ballots appeared to be ineligible or fraudulent.

“We didn’t have any predilection one way or another as to who (the recount) would hurt or help,” Jorgensen told The Times.

The recount commission is expected to meet this week to certify the results of the election.

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