Recount Changes Margins But Outcomes Stand
3/8/21 BCA Meeting and Recounts
March 9, 2021
The March 8th recount was a real barnburner.
The Board of Civil Authority (BCA) met to recount two items from the March 2nd ballot at 81 Main Street. Dawn Hill-Fleury and Diane Clemens were elected as its Chair and Vice, respectively, with only Linda Myers voting nay on the first nomination.
After a brief recess, counting began: 7,500+ ballots had been divided into bundles of 50, and six teams of two hand-counted each bundle.
It took most of the day. By 4 pm, it appeared Elaine Haney had emerged as the victor, as did Merger, reversing Tuesday’s outcome from the polls by dozens of votes.
The Decisive Moment: Dawn Hill-Fleury, after narrowing the problem down to questionable marking, quickly found a bundle with the totals reversed.
These results were prematurely leaked by the press and by people who had departed the building. The news appeared on social media, generating some short-lived frenzy and some consternation on the part of the Town Clerk.
Although vote totals checked out, the line-item results varied so much from the machine count that many in the room knew “something was very wrong”. Said Dawn Hill-Fleury, “Machines would stop working before they would give you output that’s different from what’s on the ballot.”
Hill-Fleury – with 48 years on the BCA and six recounts to her credit – was not about to trust Excel. While Pat Murray theorized what the issues might be, Hill-Fleury turned to a tape adding machine and cranked through the bundles methodically. Her goal was to isolate whether the issue was townwide or unique to one district.
They concluded the Village totals were sound, but the TOV ones didn’t match the tapes from Tuesday. Could one machine have been so far off?
Hill-Fleury explained to the Essex Retorter that she then looked for inconsistent marking on the tally sheets. In fairly short order, she got to the bottom of the discrepancy. Several tallies had been misassigned!
After recounting the questionable bundles, the outcome reversed yet again at about 5:35 pm. The final tally confirmed that Tracey Delphia maintained her win by a mere two votes, two fewer votes than on Tuesday, and No Merger gained two votes to win by 19.
Merger opponent Brad Kennison observed the entire recount process. At the end of a very long day, he was impressed by the level-headedness of the BCA Chair and Town Clerk. “Certainly, Dawn’s experience was on display.”