Fairhaven Can't Certify BOH Election-...

Fairhaven Can't Certify BOH Election- String Of Errors

Posted in the New Bedford Forum

Jack Kelly

Jamestown, RI

#1 Apr 16, 2013
http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/...

Another error emerges in Fairhaven election
April 10, 2013 12:00 AM
FAIRHAVEN — In the latest in a string of errors that occurred in the town's April 1 election, Town Counsel Thomas Crotty said Town Clerk Eileen Lowney could not certify the number of votes because it was discovered this week that the number of people checking in and out of the polls did not match.
Crotty made the announcement at the selectmen's meeting Tuesday night.

Challenger John Wethington was sworn into office on election night by Lowney after being declared the winner by three votes in a tally that did not include any hand-counted ballots. Later that night, Lowney counted what she thought were hand-count ballots, which instead gave the election to incumbent Peter DeTerra by one vote.

A third tally of the votes was taken on Friday after Lowney discovered an error at a polling station that resulted in 45 ballots being counted twice during the previous tallies. DeTerra was declared the winner yet again, this time by a two-vote margin.

Crotty said the race could be resolved with a recount, but also told the selectmen to begin thinking of how they would pay for a new election for that office, which could cost more than $7,000.

The State Elections Division has advised the town's health board not to meet until the election is resolved.

ARIEL WITTENBERG
Jack Kelly

Jamestown, RI

#2 Apr 16, 2013
How to Request a Recount

http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/elerct/rctidx....
Certification
When they receive the recount petitions, the city or town clerk will deliver them to the registrars of voters along with the following materials from the election: sealed envelopes containing the ballots cast including absentee and challenged ballots, original tally sheets, envelopes containing spoiled and unused ballots, voting lists used at the election, certificates issued to voters omitted from the voting list, written "Affirmation of Continuous Residence", the precinct clerks' election records, applications for absentee ballots and absentee ballot envelopes, the list of voters who were sent absentee ballots indicating whether the ballots were cast or rejected as defective or whether such person voted in person, and the sealed envelopes containing the ballots rejected as defective.
Jack Kelly

Jamestown, RI

#3 Apr 16, 2013
Fairhaven Massachusetts USA ?

Doubt? About a Board of Health election held on the holiday of doubt? The "loser" was sworn in, and the "winner" — accused of stuffing the ballot box — wants a recount; the 18-year incumbent town clerk — perhaps lost in the headiness of her own re-election that night — missed some ballots, double-counted some others, can't match the number of voters who came in the door with those who went out, and leaves observers wondering if the premature swearing-in was the result of mishandling the pressure; and until incumbent DeTerra made up his mind to take action on Wednesday, neither he nor challenger John Wethington — the man who was sworn in — was willing to ask for a recount.

http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/...

Our View: No doubt about it — Fairhaven has to pay for a new election
April 11, 2013 12:00 AM

Peter DeTerra thinks it's a first, stating in a press release Wednesday: "This is the only time that we are aware of in which a victorious candidate has called for a recount ... to erase any doubt that may exist regarding the true winner of the April 1st election."
Doubt? About a Board of Health election held on the holiday of doubt? The "loser" was sworn in, and the "winner" — accused of stuffing the ballot box — wants a recount; the 18-year incumbent town clerk — perhaps lost in the headiness of her own re-election that night — missed some ballots, double-counted some others, can't match the number of voters who came in the door with those who went out, and leaves observers wondering if the premature swearing-in was the result of mishandling the pressure; and until incumbent DeTerra made up his mind to take action on Wednesday, neither he nor challenger John Wethington — the man who was sworn in — was willing to ask for a recount.

You'd find fewer red flags at a Cardinals-Phillies game on May Day.

The state has recommended the Board of Health not meet until this miserable, rancorous knot is untangled.

Despite the $7,000 cost associated with another election and despite the potential delay in Board of Health business, the questions about the integrity and accuracy surrounding the first election inspire very little confidence in a recount.

The solution that is needed is a new election, and a commitment from the town clerk and all associated to get it right this time.
Jack Kelly

Jamestown, RI

#4 Apr 16, 2013
Lowney said Wednesday she swore in Wethington that night "because he asked."
Clerk Eileen Lowney said, "I tell people, it's my fault. It's my fault that we are in this mess right now. And I take full responsibility."
A ballot recount could be done by Friday.
http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/...
Fairhaven town clerk held off swearing in candidates in past tight races
By Ariel Wittenberg
awittenberg@s-t.com
April 11, 2013 12:00 AM
FAIRHAVEN — The premature swearing-in of John Wethington as a member of the Board of Health on election night was a break from the norm for Town Clerk Eileen Lowney, who in previous years has waited until after recounts to swear in candidates in close races.
Lowney said Wednesday she swore in Wethington that night "because he asked."
"In the past ones, they didn't ask, that's all I can say," she said. "This time they wanted to be sworn in and according to the count they were the winners even though it ended up changing."
Wethington's oath of office has been the center of controversy in his race after Lowney swore him in before she had counted all the votes.
The town clerk, who was herself re-elected the same night, has acknowledged she had not counted votes that were rejected by the voting machines at the time she swore in Wethington.(A voting machine rejects a ballot if it can't read it for any reason.)
Wethington was leading by three votes after the initial votes were tallied.
After Wethington was sworn in, two subsequent tallies of the votes (which included the voting machine rejected ballots) put him behind incumbent Peter DeTerra by one and then two votes.
Despite the subsequent tallies, Wethington has maintained that he is the winner because he is already sworn in.
In the past 15 years, Fairhaven has had two recounts for elected officials, and Lowney has presided over both of them, waiting to swear in the winner until the all the votes were counted and a recount completed.
In 2004, Doug MacLean was the apparent winner by fewer than 10 votes in the School Committee race held on March 5. But according to town records, MacLean was not sworn in until April 6, a day after a recount confirmed him as the winner.
The same happened in 1998 when Board of Health apparent winner Raymond Richard was not sworn in until the day of a recount that also upheld his election, though his lead decreased from 12 to five votes.
According to town records, Wethington was the fifth person elected to office on April 1 to be sworn in the same night.
"(Wethington) saw them being sworn in and asked if he could be sworn in, too. I said 'Yeah, you're the winner,' so he was sworn in," Lowney said.
Wethington's attorney Ann DeNardis said her client was following the law.
"That's the process, it's what people do," she said. "It was appropriate for the town clerk to swear him in after declaring that she had counted all the votes and declaring him the official winner. What was wrong was for her to take a second look at the votes after he was sworn."
Town Counsel Thomas Crotty said Lowney swearing in a candidate before a recount was not as much of an error as "declaring a winner before counting all the votes."
"You could swear someone in and then after a recount you can find out they didn't actually win, so they no longer would hold the office," he said. "That's different than what happened."
John Farrell, who ran for a one-year seat on the Planning Board, was also sworn in on April 1 despite having a lead of just 10 votes. That lead has since narrowed to four, and Farrell's opponent Kathy Melanson said Wednesday she intended to request a recount. As of 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, she hadn't but she has until the close of business today.
Farrell said he thought his oath was secondary to the vote tally and said he would step aside if a recount showed Melanson had actually won.
"I stand behind the voters, whether I was sworn in or not," he said.
Jack Kelly

Jamestown, RI

#5 Apr 16, 2013
http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/...
By Ariel Wittenberg
awittenberg@s-t.com
April 12, 2013 12:11 AM

FAIRHAVEN — Secretary of State William Galvin's office has opened an investigation into the April 1 Fairhaven town election.
A letter sent to Town Clerk Eileen Lowney written by Michelle Tassinari, director and legal counsel to the secretary's Election Division, makes four allegations against the town, including that poll workers did not make sure the number of ballots matched the number of voters at each polling station.

"As you are aware, serious problems have been reported in connection with the Town Election held on April 1, 2013," the letter reads. "Certain matters concerning standards, practices and procedures of election officials during the administration of the Town Election may be contrary to election laws."

Reached at her office Thursday afternoon, Lowney, who has served as clerk for 18 years, said the investigation "doesn't surprise me."

"There have been a lot of complaints so they have to investigate," she said. "There's nothing I can do right now except wait for them to call and see what they say."

Since the election on April 1, Fairhaven officials have made a series of announcements of newly discovered errors in the town's highly contested Board of Health race between incumbent Peter DeTerra and John Wethington. In that race, Wethington was sworn in before all of the votes were counted. Two subsequent counts put him behind DeTerra by one and then two votes.

Most recently, Town Counsel Thomas Crotty said officials discovered that the number of voters checking into and out of polling stations did not match up.

Crotty on Thursday did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Other allegations from the Elections Division include that the ballots were not counted by the poll workers at polling stations; that the ballots were not sealed and secured at the polling place after polls closed; and that they did not remain sealed and were counted multiple times.

Secretary of State spokesman Brian McNiff would not elaborate on the allegations, but said the investigation is not in response to any complaints filed with the office.

"The Secretary of State is initiating this," he said. "There are concerns about what happened to the ballots after polls closed."

McNiff would not comment on how the investigation could affect a possible recount or new election in the Board of Health race or the upcoming U.S. Senate election on April 30.

Wethington's attorney Ann DeNardis, who has been a vocal critic of the way Lowney handled the ballots since Wethington was sworn in, called the investigation "a validation of the concerns that we have."

"We welcome the investigation," she said. "It sounds like everything we have been saying that the laws were not followed by election officials."

DeTerra, who requested a recount in the race on Wednesday, said Thursday he was concerned that the tradition of candidates waiting inside the clerk's office on election night to hear results could have "put pressure" on Lowney.

"I think maybe people should wait outside Town Hall and she should have her own time to count the ballots," he said.

DeTerra's attorney, John Markey, said he thought the state's investigation was "appropriate" and said that he credits Lowney with "being truthful and acknowledging these mistakes as they happened."

A recount has also been requested in the Planning Board race where John Farrell defeated Kathy Melanson by six votes; Melanson made the request Thursday.

Selectman Bob Espindola called the entire election a "very unfortunate situation," and said he hoped the investigation would help the town learn from its mistakes.

"It's important that people have confidence in the process," he said. "Whatever it takes to get there is important, because to say that there is room for improvement, that's an understatement."
Jack Kelly

Jamestown, RI

#6 Apr 16, 2013
This is a matter to be worked out between the Town and its attorney, the Secretary of State’s Elections Division (which is already aware of the issue according to the news story), and the candidates, if they choose to initiate any proceedings. Complaints about local officials’ alleged noncompliance with state election laws may be made to the Secretary of State under G.L. c. 56,§ 60, see http://www.malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws... , and regulations at http://www.lawlib.state.ma.us/source/mass/cmr... . If the Secretary issues an order to local election officials and that order needs to be enforced in court, the Secretary could ask the Attorney General to do so.
Jack Kelly

Jamestown, RI

#7 Apr 16, 2013
http://wbsm.com/tags/eileen-lowney/

Eileen Lowney
Sec. Of State To Investigate Fairhaven Board Of Health Election
By Jim Phillips 5 days ago
The controversy over the Board of Health Election in Fairhaven may soon be resolved.

Secretary of State William Galvin says his office has begun an investigation into the April 1st Election in Fairhaven
Jack Kelly

Jamestown, RI

#8 Apr 16, 2013
http://fairhaven-ma.gov/pages/FOV1-0002BA37/S...

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