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Unopposed W.Va. city council member in limbo after name left off ballot

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A clerical error left Curt Mele's name off the ballot when he ran unopposed for a third term in Benwood, West Virginia's city council. (curt mele/reuters)

Curt Mele has served for eight years as a city council member in a small town in West Virginia, and this year ran unopposed for his third term.

However, Mele’s seat is now in limbo because his name was accidentally left off the ballot in the May 13 election.

“At first I thought it was a joke,” Mele told FoxNews.com.

The city clerk in Benwood, a small town of about 1,600 near the Pennsylvania border, listed another city council member instead of Mele as the candidate for his seat. The other lawmaker still has two years remaining in his term.

Now, Mele says he and his lawyer are working to find a solution so he can serve the four-year term he says is rightfully his.

“I don’t think I should be punished for the mistake (the city clerk) made,” Mele said.

Benwood’s City Clerk Judy Hunt referred questions from the Associated Press to city attorney Eric Gordon, who did not respond to requests for comment.

Mele said he found out about the ballot mix-up shortly after the polls opened. He consulted the office of West Virginia’s Secretary of State, and learned the city council has the authority to appoint him to serve two years of the term.

Mele said his lawyer is examining whether the council could appoint him to a full four-year term instead, and if so, his lawyer will present that option to the city council at its meeting Tuesday.

Mele said he has received phone calls from frustrated constituents in his approximately 200-person district, known in the city as a ward. 

“I feel I am doing a very good job for the people of my ward,” he said. “No one ran against me, so that shows me they are satisfied with the job I’m doing. Hopefully I can serve them for another four years.”

Marshall County Clerk Jan Pest said her office certified the election Thursday morning, and that clears the way for Mele to contest the results if he so chooses.

Pest said it's up to the cities to get their information right, including how names appear on the ballot.

FoxNews.com's Stephanie McNeal and The Associated Press contributed to this report