Recount coming for New Ipswich fire engine

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/23/2017 6:23:06 AM

Results of Thursday’s election in New Ipswich are being challenged by an employee of the New Ipswich Fire Department, who filed a petition for a recount of all 849 ballots on article 14, which would have helped fund a new pumper fire engine.

The measure failed by a final tally of 426 to 407, a difference of 19 votes. Sixteen ballots were left blank. The appeal was made by Wendy Leger, administrative assistant in the New Ipswich Fire Department, and supported by at least nine other voters. Attempts to contact Leger on Wednesday were not successful. 

The recount will take place at the New Ipswich town office on Turnpike Road after next week’s Board of Selectmen meeting. The request was submitted Tuesday, March 21.

To request a recount on an official ballot vote, a resident must accrue ten applicants and pay $10 to the town clerk’s office. The recount will be administered by Town Moderator Bob Romeril, Town Clerk Jessica Olsen, and the three selectmen, Jay Hopkins, Tim Johnson and Chairman David Lage.

In New Ipswich, ballots are counted on electronic voting machines.

Ballots will be split up and checked by hand for about two hours. Among the most closely examined ballots will be the 16 recorded as blank. Sometimes if the voter’s marking does not fill the proper part of the voting bubble, the machine can fail to recognize it.

“You just need to examine to see if there was intent,” Romeril said. “If someone didn’t fill the circle, or they drew an X and it didn’t go through the center of the circle it could have been missed by the machine.”

The New Ipswich ballot had the instruction, “TO VOTE, completely fill in the OVAL to the RIGHT of your choice,” printed on page one.

The official time and location of the recount will be posted at least 24 hours prior to happening, and the applicant, Leger, will be notified by the clerk by mail. Procedures for recounts of town elections are identified in RSA 669:30-33, which includes, “When counting the ballots, the board of recount or their assistants shall visually inspect each ballot. No mechanical, optical, or electronic device shall be used for the counting of ballots.”

It also instructs that if the recount is for candidates for office, any candidates on the board must recuse themselves from the count. Selectman Johnson is a certified firefighter in New Hampshire but is not listed among the personnel in New Ipswich.

The article was intended to buy a new engine for the fire department for $475,000 to be up to compliance standards. Of that, $355,000 was to come from a capital reserve fund, and $120,000 was to be raised through taxation. It was endorsed unanimously by the Board of Selectmen, but split the Budget Committee 2 to 2.

Results from the recount will be made official immediately on Tuesday night, March 28.

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