| Sarah Heinonen
WILBRAHAM — A recount of the Select Board vote that took place during the May 20 annual town election was requested by Carmela Blair, who lost to Michael Squindo by just 29 votes.
Town Clerk Carole Tardif said recounts were rare, but Blair had submitted a request for a recount within the 10-day period allowed by law.
According to Squindo’s campaign manager Xiomara Alban DeLobato, who had reviewed the recount request, Blair had said the narrow margin was one reason for the recount, but the paperwork also stated Blair felt the absentee ballots had not been correctly counted. This reason was confirmed in an open meeting of the Board of Registrars on May 30. Tardif stated during that meeting that the absentee ballots were counted on the election day. The town clerk said there were no ballot irregularities or problems with the machines during the town election.
Squindo told Reminder Publishing, “I trust that the ballots were properly counted. I respect the democratic process and Ms. Blair’s request for a recount.”
The recount will take place on June 10 in the Select Board meeting room at the Town Office Building, as it has the required space. The ballots will be transported by sworn-in wardens and the room will be set up beginning at 7 a.m., with the recount beginning at 8 a.m. Each candidate is allowed three representatives to observe the proceedings. If a ballot is questioned or challenged, the Board of Registrars — Frank Mikuszewski, Thomas Mango and Thomas Reavey — have the final say in determining the voter’s intention.
Blair did not check the hand count box on the recount request form; therefore the 1,748 ballots will be counted by machine. Wilbraham uses Election Systems & Software DS2000 ballot-counting machines. There will be two machines and two workers per machine. There will be two Democrats and two Republicans chosen to feed the ballots into the machines. The person totaling the counts and the runner will either be one from each party or Independents.
“If we’re using the same methodology and the same machines, what is this for?” asked Mikuszewski.
Mango responded, “It’s her right,” referring to Blair.
Assuming the recount will take about five hours, Tardif estimated the recount will cost about $1,500, between the cost of machines, workers and the Board of Registrars, who are paid for their time. That money will be paid from the Town Clerk’s Office budget. As it is the end of the fiscal year, Tardif said, “I think I can just squeeze through” without overrunning the budget. However, she emphasized that five hours was an estimate, and the recount could take longer and cost more money.
Mikuszewski said he may need to leave if the recount goes past 1 p.m., as he has a prior commitment. In that case, Tardif is a legal registrar and can act in that capacity if needed.