BEVERLY — The city’s first recount in roughly 20 years begins Saturday morning and City Clerk Wes Slate said his team is ready.

Slate and election workers spent Thursday morning splitting the 6,464 ballots cast on election night into groups of 10 and then created blocks of 50 for easier counting.

The recount is set to begin at 9 a.m. in the McKeown School gym; the process is open to the public.

The second look at the city’s councilor at-large race comes after being petitioned by Councilor Matt St. Hilaire, who came in fourth out of six candidates in the Nov. 7 election. Hilaire trailed challenger, and former councilor, Tim Flaherty, by 11 votes — 3,166 to 3,155, unofficial results show. Only three of the six at-large candidates earned seats in the November election with less than a dozen ballots separating the third-place and fourth place finishers.

During the recount, candidates can have observers overseeing the process. Flaherty also hired an attorney, and because he wasn’t expecting the cost, reached out on Facebook for donations from supporters.

A recount is much more work than simply having election workers sit down and count the votes by hand. This goes for both the candidates involved as well as the city and workers.

“It’s been a tremendous amount of work to get ready,” Slate said, noting that his staff have had to balance recount preparation with their work day tasks. “It’s interesting, it’s different. It’s a new experience for almost all of us.”

Lauren Goldberg, an attorney with KP Law, was chosen to work with the city on ensuring the recount goes smoothly. Goldberg used to work as an attorney for the Secretary of Commonwealth’s Election Division and has overseen many recounts.

Separating the ballots into manageable blocks Thursday involved 14 workers, Slate said. Recount day will bring 24. In addition, those from Slate’s office will also be on hand; Beverly police officers will also be there to ensure the security of the ballots. A custodian must also be at the school to ensure building access.

Chosen recount workers include the city’s past election workers, as well as personnel from the clerk’s offices of other area towns and cities. Some Beverly High School students are also included — about a dozen worked Election Day and several were available to return for the recount.

“We always have a need for bringing new people in,” Slate said of election workers. “It’s hard to get people who want to sit there for 13 hours.”

On the candidate side, Flaherty said he gathered together a team of around 20 volunteers to act as observers. They’ll watch the ballots being counted and make objections where they feel necessary. 

Flaherty said the cost of the attorney pushed him to reach out to supporters for donations. His campaign finance report shows Flaherty has nearly $4,800 in liabilities.

“It’s not only a cost on me, but on the city,” he said.

Flaherty said he’s looking forward to the end of the recount, but is a bit apprehensive about the outcome. However, he said he’s confident in the accuracy of the city’s new voting machines.

“I just have to go through this formality of the recount,” he said.

St. Hilaire did not return multiple requests for comment for this article.

Slate spoke confidently of the recount preparations.

“We’re as ready as we can be,” he said. “We’ve spent a lot of time, we’ve had a lot of help. We’re in real good shape.”

Arianna MacNeill can be reached at 978-338-2527 or at amacneill@salemnews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @SN_AMacNeill.

Follow the recount at salemnews.com

Staff writer Arianna MacNeill will be reporting live from the McKeown School gym as Saturday’s recount gets underway. Follow our live blog at salemnews.com for updates throughout the day. Be part of the conversation by using #BeverlyRecount on Twitter and Instagram. Recount results will also be posted at salemnews.com once they are available.