A recount of ballots cast for Amherst Town Meeting members in Precinct 9 will take place on Thursday, Amherst Town Clerk Sandra Burgess said today, (April 11.)
Precinct 9 includes the residential neighborhoods north of Amherst center, surrounding Wildwood Elementary, Amherst Regional Middle School, and Amherst-Pelham Regional High School. There were 24 candidates for eight open Town Meeting slots in Precinct 9. The unusually stiff competition meant that several people who got well over 100 votes each were not elected. Those who were elected based on the March 28 tallies can be seen at this link (scroll down to view Precinct 9.) https://www.amherstma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/31393
The large numbers of people wanting to run for Town Meeting arose amid controversy over a recent elementary school consolidation and building project, which failed to win a two-thirds majority in a townwide referendum on March 28, and at Town Meetings in January and November. The plan was for a consolidated grade 2-6 building on the Wildwood site. Some of those who ran for Town Meeting have been critical of the 254-member body, and have called for a new form of government in Amherst. The organization “Amherst for All” has led this charge.
Two Precinct 9 candidates, David Markland and Felicity Callahan, each submitted recount petitions on which at least ten signatures were certified, Burgess said. Markland did not get a Town Meeting seat, while Callahan, a longtime member of Town Meeting, was re-elected with 169 votes.
Markland’s petition cited “observable machine malfunctions,” as the reason for seeking a recount, while Callahan’s petition said that the Precinct 9 race was “extraordinarily close.”
Burgess said she was not aware of any voting machine malfunctions, but inevitably, there are people who do not mark their ballots according to listed instructions, and totals are likely to shift slightly when ballots are hand-counted.
“There is no reason to believe the results will not be different,” she said, adding that it is unknown if any changes will be sufficient to alter the election’s outcome.
The existing tallies show Markland with 146 votes, while former Town Meeting member Shevahn Best, with 148 votes, was not re-elected. Lea Marie Douville, with 149 votes, now has a Town Meeting seat.
The recount, to be conducted starting on Thursday morning at 9:30 a.m. by the Board of Registrars, could take 3 to 4 hours, Burgess said. A total of 498 ballots were cast in Precinct 9.
A pre-recount meeting will be held Wednesday morning at 10:30 a.m. at Town Hall, which will explain the recount process and procedures to Town Meeting candidates and their recount observers, Burgess said.