Yarmouth schedules recount of rental ordinance vote

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YARMOUTH — A manual ballot recount of the Election Day vote on local Question 4 – the referendum establishing a Rental Housing Advisory Committee and requiring landlords to give tenants 75 days’ notice for rent increases – will be conducted Dec. 10.

Town Clerk Jenn Doten said the recount will be held from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. in the Town Hall Community Room, with a one-hour lunch break at noon. If necessary, the recount will continue on the same schedule Dec. 11 and 12.

The Rental Dwelling Ordinance narrowly passed Nov. 6 by 33 votes, 2,423 to 2,390.

Resident Craig Martin said he and others collected 160 signatures calling for a recount and submitted them to the clerk’s office Nov. 16. The town requires 100 signatures.

Martin said he had help collecting signatures from members of a group called “No On 4,” which campaigned against the proposed ordinance. Martin said he and other petition-signers want the votes verified by people, not machines.

Town Manager Nat Tupper last week said he thought the town might find marks on ballots that could change the vote count, but doesn’t think it will amount to 33 votes or change the overall outcome.

According to the town, there were 569 ballots not counted because of an unclear marking or left blank for the question, which Martin in an email said “was substantially higher undervote than those for questions on the front of the ballot. A manual recount will verify that all local ballot scanners were accurately tabulating the back of the ballots.”

Tupper said voters received five ballots – two for the state and three for the town – which included five referendum questions. One town ballot, Tupper said, had Question 1 on the front and Question 2 on the back. Another had Question 3 on one side and Question 4 on the other. Question 5 was on a single-sided form.

According to Tupper, between 2 percent and 3 percent of ballots for Questions 1, 3 and 5 were left blank, while Question 2 had just over 8 percent left blank.

Question 4 had approximately 10.5 percent blank.

Tupper said there were many “fail safe” measures in place to assure that questions left blank were done so intentionally, including voters being told the ballot was two-sided and printing that information on the front side of ballots.

Further, he said, ballot scanners can read if a question is left blank and will automatically ask the voter if they’d like to proceed.

That said, Tupper added, the scanners can’t tell if a question is not clearly marked.

“We may find that if someone marks yes and no, that the scanner will say it was blank,” he said. “But someone looking at it could tell what the voter’s intent was,” for example, in the case of a crossed out yes vote with a filled in and circled no vote.

In July, a petition drafted by Councilor April Humphrey with input from members of the Yarmouth Tenants’ Association was submitted in support of the Rental Dwelling Ordinance, which proposed establishing the Rental Housing Advisory Committee and requiring the 75-day notice for rent increases.

Most councilors opposed the proposal, or aspects of it, when they voted Sept. 5 to send it to voters.

The proposal also received criticism from many who said it unfairly targeted Taymil Properties, which owns Yarmouth Pointe, Yarmouth Green, Yarmouth Place, and Yarmouth Landing, because the ordinance would only impose the notice restriction on landlords with 10 or more rental units.

Tupper has said Taymil already gives their tenants 75 days’ notice for increases and there has been no action by the council since Nov. 6 to establish a committee.

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

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