SOUTH PORTLAND — A recount of Nov. 3 ballots verified Monday that Alan Livingston edged Tappan C. Fitzgerald II to represent District 5 on the School Board.
On Election Day, unofficial results indicated that Livingston received 14 more votes than Fitzgerald. That lead dropped to 13 votes, following the certification process, prompting Fitzgerald to ask for a recount.
It took about four hours to recount the more than 8,000 local ballots cast in last Tuesday’s election, but when it was over, Livingston had won by 25 votes, 4,174 to 4,149. It was the first recount in the city in at least a decade.
“The results of the election remain the same,” City Clerk Sue Mooney announced shortly before 8:30 p.m.
Fitzgerald and Livingston exchanged pleasant conversation through most of the recount. There were only two disputed ballots, which the candidates agreed to throw out. One had a dot just above Fitzgerald’s name, but not near the oval, and the other had a mark in the shape of an oval in between both candidates’ names.
At least four city councilors were present at all times during the recount, which was also observed by the city attorney and two assistant city clerks.
Meanwhile, two election clerks from each of the city’s four polling locations sat behind a thin line of yellow rope, counting – and recounting – the ballots with rubber thimbles. Two other clerks checked absentee ballots.
After results were released, Fitzgerald, whose children attend Skillin Elementary School, said he was sorry that recount had been so labor intensive, noting the city clerk had first indicated that as many ballots as possible would be run through a vote-counting machine.
“I’m almost really, really sorry,” Fitzgerald said. “I didn’t realize it was going to be that difficult for you folks.”
Mooney, who said recounts are simply part of the voting process, said she decided to hand-count the ballots because the machines can only read 1,000 an hour and the ballots would have been read twice.
“I feel comfortable with the hand-counted totals,” Mooney said. “I’m very proud of our election workers.”
Fitzgerald, who campaigned heavily throughout the city – including putting his name on Halloween candies – carried Districts 3-5. But Livingston made up the difference in the other two districts and with absentee ballots.
Livingston, who didn’t put out any campaign signs, said that he was glad the election is over and feels a big responsibility to get to work for the schools He also suggested that he would keep Fitzgerald on his speed dial.
“I’m going to call on ‘Tap’ to get a pulse on what he sees and hears in the district,” Livingston said.
Both candidates are lifelong residents of South Portland with either kids or grandchildren in the school system. Fitzgerald, who has been a member of the Skillin Parent Teacher Association for about nine years, pledged to continue being an active parent.
Livingston taught at the high school and middle school from 1973-1982. The 59-year-old is now a math teacher at Cheverus High School in Portland. His three children graduated from South Portland schools and he now has grandchildren in the system.
“Whichever way it went, South Portland was going to be the winner,” Livingston said.
Mooney said the city will pay for the election since the original margin of victory was less than 1 percent. Costs include wages of the ballot counters, the city attorney and the clerks.
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Tappan Fitzgerald, left, and Alan Livingston await the results of a recount in the District 5 School Board election at City Hall on Monday night. Livingston won by 25 votes.