By Sue Ellen Woodcock
After hours of recounting the ballots one by one, and discovering and finding that 34 ballots were missing from the Nov. 7 election, the Town Board of Registrars has declared Ron Vecchia the Town Council President elect, still by 11 votes. He will be sworn in in January.
A recount of the Nov. 7 election was called for by candidate Jeff Turco after results showed just an 11 vote difference between him and Vecchia. In the election Vecchia finished with 1,991 votes, Turco with 1,980 votes and Rich Boyajian earned 584 votes.
The results of the recount showed Vecchia with picking up seven of his 1,998 votes; Turco also picked up seven with 1,987 votes and Boyajian picked up one of his 585 votes.
On Monday, a crew of workers and observers packed the Harvey Hearing Room to watch ballots counted out in batches of 50. Tuesday the action moved to the Winthrop Elks Hall where the counting of votes truly began and the discovery was made that 34 ballots were missing. Observers also had their eyes on eight provisional ballots and two absentee ballots.
Of all the legal proceedings to take place in a town, having a recount of an election can be compared to nothing. Watching a recount may seem boring to some, but for the candidates, friends and family the event is nerve wracking.
Turco, with lawyer Dennis Newman, and Vecchia, with his lawyer James Kelly, watched Monday and Tuesday as the recount unfolded. One camp on one side of the function hall, and the other was on the other side. The town’s attorney Lauren Goldberg, of Kopelman & Paige guided everyone through the process. She acted in the same manner during the mayoral recount in Revere a year and a half ago. She is also noted to be open of the top attorneys in the field of municipal government, elections and recounts.
Each side protested individual ballots for legal reasons during the process. A process that was long and tedious. At some point you could have heard a pin drop.
Throughout the process both candidates were cordial toward each other. Turco congratulated Vecchia, and both thanked each other for a clean race.
“I thank the board and the town clerk. I know this is stressful,” Turco said.
“Jeff was gracious throughout the process,” Vecchia said. “I think the system works and everyone did a professional job.”
As for the 34 ballots that were found inside one machine. Since there are two slots in the voting machine to gather the ballots after they are counted, one for rejected ballots (which may have stray or incorrect markings on them), and one for the rest of the ballots. All of the ballots were counted by the machine, however they appeared to have gotten caught in the machine.
“It puts the whole election in question,” Newman said about the missing ballots. “There was a concern, but we are satisfied.”
This little glitch prompted a field trip of sorts at 4 p.m. to go to the Cummings School to open the voting machines. The lawyers and candidates traveled with police escort open the voting machines.
“The ballot boxes were examined and ballots were found,” Goldberg said.
Board of Registar member Jim Gallagher said he couldn’t see the ballots in the machine. Eventually, poll worker Alan Shore offered up a flashlight, and the ballots could be seen. Under police escort the 34 ballots were brought back to the Winthrop Elks Club to be officially counted. This was the first election where new voting machines were used.
At the end of the recount Town Clerk Carla Vitale said she would not comment on the voting machines.
“The Town Clerk’s Office was happy with the result of the recount as it showed the good work of all those involved in the election process. Our people attend trainings on both equipment and best practices, are provided with detailed training manuals and do the best job possible with the resources allocated,” Vitale said. “Special thanks to the Winthrop Lodge of Elks for providing us the location and custodial services on such short notice. We look forward to working with all our newly elected officials in January and wish all our residents a safe and joyous holiday season.”
VOTING RESULTS FOR WINTHROP RECOUNT
Provisional & other ballots
Total ballots cast 4,644