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Death of Prince George's Interim Election Chief

[The following item was submitted by Washington Post Staff Writer Rosalind S. Helderman]

Prince George's County lost a long-time public servant Saturday when Robert J. Antonetti Sr., who had been serving as interim elections administrator, died suddenly at age 70.

Antonetti ran elections in Prince George's for 30 years, before leaving in 2000 to become elections chief in Howard County. He retired in 2004 but returned to Prince George's to help the county through the 2006 election season, after administrator Robin Downs Colbert resigned just a few weeks before the September primary, complaining that the state had pushed the transition to electronic voting and registration too quickly.

Antonetti acknowledged that the primary election that followed was deeply flawed, with vote counting continuing for days after polls closed, as workers hunted down dozens of data cards that were accidentally left in electronic voting machines. Some poll judges did not show up for the day; others were poorly trained.

The November count ran more smoothly, though long lines kept some voters waiting until almost midnight.

Antonetti had been intending to step down from his temporary post and return to retirement in June, when a new Board of Elections appointed by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) takes over. With Antonetti's death, the outgoing board asked Deputy Elections Administrator Alisha Alexander to fill in as interim chief until June.

Outgoing Board President S. John di Stefano praised Antonetti for his management of an office with a staff far smaller than other elections boards. The Prince George's County Board of Elections employed just eight full time staffers in the weeks leading up to the troubled September primary. In Montgomery County, where the election was also beset with problems, the same office employed 25.

"He enjoyed being back to work," Di Stefano said. "He lived for the election business."

Board of Elections Vice President Carl R. Ruble said Antonetti's family told him he died of a heart attack.

By  |  February 27, 2007; 11:52 AM ET
 
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