Thursday March 7, 2013

NEWFANE -- Though Newfane’s Australian Ballot election ended Tuesday evening, it turns out that town officials are not yet through counting votes.

Town Clerk Gloria Cristelli said Wednesday that she has scheduled a recount for 10 a.m. Friday at the town office at the request of Merle Tessier, who lost his run for treasurer by only four votes.

State law says the recount must be handled by the town’s Board of Civil Authority.

In one of only two contested races in Newfane, incumbent Treasurer Maureen Albert-Piascik garnered 137 votes compared with Tessier’s 133. Tessier had 10 days to request a recount and did so on Wednesday, Cristelli said.

Under state law, a contest is eligible for a recount if "the difference between the number of votes cast for a winning candidate and the number of votes cast for a losing candidate is less than 5 percent of the total votes cast for all the candidates for an office, divided by the number of persons to be elected."

The treasurer’s race falls within that 5 percent range. However, it does not appear that another close Newfane race -- Mike Fitzpatrick edged Chris Williams by 10 votes for a Selectboard seat -- would qualify for a recount.

Boards of Civil Authority are made up of a town’s Selectboard, Justices of the Peace and clerk.

State statute says the board opens a ballot container and recounts votes for the race in question, "unless the candidate who petitions for a recount requests that the recount be conducted by optical scanner."

"The petitioner, the opposing candidates and their designated representatives may inspect the ballots and observe the recount under the guidance of the board," the law says. "The board shall certify the result to the clerk, who shall declare the result."

There is a further avenue of appeal for whoever comes out on the short end of the recount: Within five days of the clerk’s declaration, the law says, "an aggrieved candidate may appeal to the Superior Court by giving a written notice to that effect to the other candidates who appeared before the Board of Civil Authority."

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.