South Portland to recount ballots in council election

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SOUTH PORTLAND — A recount will be conducted Friday to decide the final tally of the Nov. 8 election for two City Council seats.

The unofficial third-place finisher, Kate Lewis, requested the recount after losing by 58 votes to second-place finisher Susan Henderson, 4,439 to 4,381.

In the seven-person race for two seats, incumbent Councilor Maxine Beecher was the leading vote-getter with 5,200.

There was a question of whether the recount would have to be put on hold while the city sent ballots to Augusta to conduct a recount of Question 1 on the statewide ballot – the legalization of recreational marijuana – but that won’t be the case, City Clerk Emily Scully said Thursday morning.

“We’re going to proceed on Friday as scheduled,” she said.

The hand recount will begin in council chambers at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 18 and is expected to take until at least 4:30 p.m. A total of 15,079 ballots have to be counted.

Each candidate is required to provide eight people, who can be paid or volunteers, to help with the recount. The city will hire an additional eight to assist with the process, Scully said. Corporation Counsel Sally Daggett, an attorney with Portland-based Jensen Baird Gardner & Henry, will also be present.

According to Scully, other than the $10 hourly rate paid to the city’s recount assistants, the total cost the city will incur from the recount won’t be known until after it is completed. She said she is not sure how much the city will be charged for Daggett’s services during the day-long procedure.

In a general election, candidates have five business days to ask for a recount after results have been tallied. If the number of votes in question exceeds 1.5 percent of the total votes cast, the candidate requesting the recount must put down a deposit to pay for the recount.

Since 58 votes is less than 1.5 percent of the tally, the city will incur the full cost, Scully said.

“I would be very satisfied if the final outcome reflects what the current unofficial results show,” Lewis said in a Nov. 10 email to Scully. “However, this is a first and important opportunity to ensure the integrity and accuracy of our relatively new voting machines, which have not yet been subject to a hand recount for a live election.”

Henderson on Thursday said she didn’t have much to say on the matter, other than she understands that requesting a recount is within Lewis’ rights. “It’s a due process thing,” she said.

Both Henderson and Lewis are allowed to be present while the ballots are being tallied, Scully said, but they won’t be able to go beyond a barrier that will separate the general public from the people who are counting.

According to Scully, the last time a recount was conducted for a city election was a Board of Education race in 2009, when Alan Livingston defeated Tappan Fitzgerald for the District 5 seat by 14 votes.

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or aacquisto@theforecaster.net. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoAElection_logo_0

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South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.