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Recount ready to roll; City Hall event could last all day.

Byline: Nick Kotsopoulos

WORCESTER - Nearly three weeks after the municipal election, they will once again be counting ballots at City Hall today.

All eyes will be on the City Council chamber, where there will be a hand recount of the ballots cast in the Nov. 6 mayor's race. Both Frederick C. Rushton and Mayor Konstantina B. Lukes petitioned for the recount - Mr. Rushton asked for a recount in all 10 wards, while Mrs. Lukes requested a recount in eight wards.

According to the unofficial result, Mrs. Lukes finished first with 7,432 votes, followed by Mr. Rushton with 7,327 votes, Gary Rosen with 4,496 and William S. Coleman III with 1,288. The difference between Mrs. Lukes and Mr. Rushton, who have also both been elected at-large city councilors, is 105 votes.

Mr. Rushton is pinning his recount hopes on the fact that no votes were tabulated in the mayor's race on more than 4 percent, or 925, of the ballots. He contends scanners may have failed to accurately read ballots that were not properly marked by voters.

City Clerk David J. Rushford, the city's elections chief, said all four mayoral candidates have been invited to observe the recount and to have representatives present as well. The recount proceedings are to get under way about 8 a.m., and Mr. Rushford said the recount could go into the evening before it is completed.

The recount will be aired live, start to finish, on the city government cable channel, Channel 12 on the local Charter Communications cable system. People interested in observing the recount in person may watch from the balcony in the council chamber at City Hall.

"We're ready to go," Mr. Rushford said. "Working with the secretary of state's office, our city solicitor and the candidates, we have established a process and protocol for the recount that will protect the integrity of the election process.

"Even though computers are an integral part of our elections, not one electronic device will be used during the recount," he added. "There'll be no calculators, no personal computers, no laptops, no cell phones and no handheld devices. The ballots will be counted by hand and tabulated manually."

Since the municipal election, the 21,283 ballots that were cast and counted have been stored under lock and key in the basement of City Hall. In addition to the three separate locks that have to be opened to gain access to where the ballots are being stored, each of the 50 ballot boxes is further protected by tamper-proof plastic caps.

Beginning about 7:30 a.m., custodians accompanied by police officers will begin retrieving the ballots and associated materials from the basement and bringing them into the City Council chamber. Mr. Rushford said only the mayoral candidates and their counsels may accompany the personnel and police officer in the transfer of the ballots.

Each candidate will be allowed as many as 25 observers and agents in the council chamber. To gain access to the ballot-counting area, the clerk said, the name of each person must be on a list provided by the candidates and they will be required to wear identification badges.

Inside the council chamber, 10 tables will be set up - one for each of the 10 wards. Each table will have a ballot reader and a tally clerk. The ballot reader will read each ballot and announce who the vote was for. The tally clerk, meanwhile, will be responsible for keeping track of the vote total at that particular table. The ballots will be counted in blocks of 50.

Mr. Rushford said each candidate will be allowed to have two representatives at each table - one to observe the ballot reader and one to observe the tally clerk.

In addition to 20 readers and tally clerks, Mr. Rushford said, there will also be five "runners." Their job is to carry disputed ballots to the three election commissioners, who will also be in the council chamber. Each candidate may also have one observer per runner.

A fourth election commissioner, John Goggins, recused himself from the recount Friday because he made a campaign contribution to Mr. Rushton. A fifth seat on the election panel is vacant.

The election commissioners will act as judges on any disputed ballots, said Mr. Rushford, the clerk.

The ballot counts at each table will then be forwarded to a central tabulation table staffed by three clerks. When the recount for each precinct is completed, the results will be posted on a board in the third-floor hallway outside the council chamber.

"Everything will be contained in the lower level of the council chamber," Mr. Rushford said. "All together, there will be about 41 of our people in the ballot counting area, and each of the candidates can have a maximum of 25 of their people, excluding themselves and their lawyers."

In addition to counting the 21,283 ballots that were counted in the municipal election, another 11 provisional ballots will be counted for the first time as well.

Provisional ballots are cast by voters who were not on the voting list at the polling place where they showed up to vote. Such ballots are set aside and are not counted immediately at the polls like all other ballots, because a determination has to be made on the registration status of those people.

Eighty-three provisional ballots were cast during the election, but election officials have certified only 11 of those for counting. The remaining 72 were not certified for a variety of reasons; in most cases election officials could not find any records of those individuals being registered to vote in Worcester.

The recount will cost about $10,000.

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The tally: The difference between Mrs. Lukes and Mr. Rushton is 105 votes.

The protocol: All four mayoral candidates have been invited to observe the recount.

The quote: `We're ready to go.' - City Clerk David J. Rushford

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ART: PHOTOS

CUTLINE: (1) Mr. Rushton (2) Mrs. Lukes
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Nov 26, 2007
Words:994
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