By Bethany Bray
---- — SALEM — The Ward 6 ballots from the Nov. 5 City Council election will be recounted Monday, Nov. 25, 4 p.m. at City Hall.
The date was set last night by the city’s Board of Registrars, after Councilor Paul Prevey requested a recount.
Newcomer Beth Gerard upset Prevey, the Ward 6 councilor since 2006, by 16 votes on Nov. 5.
Prevey’s recount request, filed at City Hall last week, raises questions of possible voting irregularities.
City Clerk Cheryl Lapointe said last night that Prevey has not spoken to her about why he’s seeking a recount.
“No one has spoken to me about what they thought happened, or didn’t happen (on election day),” she said. “... (Prevey’s reasons) don’t quite make sense to me, but that’s OK. We’ll go through the (recount) process.”
Gerard was at last night’s Board of Registrars meeting; Prevey was not.
Prevey has not responded to phone or email messages from The Salem News seeking comment since election night.
The official Ward 6 results from Nov. 5 show Gerard with 483 votes and Prevey with 467. Five ballots had write-in candidates, and 46 were left blank.
“Councilor Prevey has been the steward for Ward 6 for several years and has achieved many wonderful accomplishments,” Gerard said in an email to The Salem News. “I respect his right to pursue a recount, as we agree that honest and fair elections are a priority. I believe that our tireless volunteer poll workers have distributed accurate voting results, but if the recount shows that Councilor Prevey was the winner of the election, then I wish him the best in his next term. I worked hard to earn the majority of votes in Ward 6 to become the next councilor, and I hope that the recount will confirm that.”
Lapointe said she did not see any voting problems in Ward 6 on Nov. 5, nor did she receive reports of any from the polls.
“He (Prevey) has a right to hold a recount,” Lapointe said in a phone interview yesterday. “Do I think that there are (voting) irregularities? No, but the proof will be in doing the recount ... It wasn’t a very busy day (voter turnout was 26 percent). I don’t believe there were any irregularities.”
The cost of the recount will be covered by the city clerk’s budget, Lapointe said. The cost will vary, depending on how many staff are needed and whether they’ll be paid overtime.
In a recount, ballots are recounted by hand — a “slow, tedious process,” Lapointe said.
Lapointe’s staff will look over each ballot, and poll workers will tally the totals. Candidates will have their own “observers” watching the process, who can raise questions about any ballot.
The Board of Registrars sits off to the side and will make a ruling on any challenge, Lapointe said.
Once everything is tallied, the city clerk and Board of Registrars certify the results.
A police officer will escort the ballots from the clerk’s office up one flight of stairs to City Council chambers for the recount. All of the equipment used on Nov. 5, including voter lists and voting machines, will be set up to be viewed.
The city’s last recount was in fall 2007, when Ward 4 Councilor Jerry Ryan was elected over Chuck Barton by 23 votes, a margin that bumped to 29 after ballots were recounted three weeks after the election. Barton had requested the recount after hearing accounts of voting machines jamming on election day.
Ryan, who was ousted by 26 votes in this month’s councilor-at-large election, decided he would not ask for a recount and conceded the race last week.
Salem’s new city councilors will be sworn in and join the board in January.
Bethany Bray can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.