Matt Cota, the two-year city council seat hopeful who was bested by incumbent Meaghan Emery on Town Meeting Day, requested a recount of the votes on Wednesday, March 4. Cota lost the position by a narrow 74 votes, which is within the 5% threshold for recounts.
The city has between 2-5 days to complete the recount, but City Manager Kevin Dorn said he believes it will be completed by Sunday, March 8. The City Council’s planned reorganizational meeting for Thursday, March 5, has been cancelled awaiting the results of the recount. It will be added to the council’s regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, March 9.
“The unofficial count is [a loss by] 74 votes, which is less than half of 1%,” Cota said. “That razor thin [vote] combined with the fact that they ran out of ballots … and had to do paper ballots and hand count them,” motivated his request.
Cota says he has no reason to believe the vote is incorrect but wants to ensure that every vote was counted.
“The volunteers do an amazing job,” he said of the Election Day crew. But, he said, with the turn out and running out of ballots he felt a recount was in order. He spoke with his family who supported the decision.
“If the roles were reversed and I was ahead I would fully expect my opponent to ask for a recount,” he said.
Cota currently chairs the Development Review Board but will recuse himself from the board’s meeting tonight, March 4. He said that if he were to become a city councilor, he would have to resign from the development review board.
“I’m disappointed but I’m not surprised,” Emery said of the recount. “I do have trust, however, in the city clerk … she is the epitome of professionalism; she cuts no corners.”
Emery said that in the past close votes where recounts were requested the winner often remained unchanged.
“It’s Matt’s right, so I respect that,” she said of his request. “I don’t think this is going to change anything.”
If roles were reversed Emery said she probably would not have requested a recount.
“I just have that much trust in our clerk,” she said. But if her supporters pushed her to ask for a recount, she said she could have been swayed to request one. Emery will have to abstain from council duties until the recount is complete and the winner is determined.
The recount process
Per law, the recount will occur within two to five days of Cota’s request, according to City Clerk Donna Kinville. The Board of Civil Authority will conduct the recount and other elected officials if needed.
Kinville hopes to have eight or nine people recount the votes. She said a recount isn’t a great expense to the city. If it is considered a continuation of the election, workers will be paid minimum wage, if it is considered a Board of Civil Authority meeting, the workers will be paid for one hour at their meeting rate. In the past recounts have shown the tabulators are “very accurate,” Kinville said.
Typically, recounts have not shown a change in the results she said, though they can identify a few differences.
“I’m not expecting a huge change,” Kinville said. “But you never know.”
The recount is an open meeting and members of the public will be allowed to attend.