By Alex Lippa
---- — SANDOWN — It took a coin toss and a recount, but Erica Olsen was finally sworn in as town treasurer yesterday.
Officials gathered at Town Hall to count ballots cast in the treasurer's race March 12. The recount was requested by incumbent Bruce Cleveland after he and Olsen each received 232 votes.
After the hourlong recount was completed, the tally was different but the outcome was the same.
It was another deadlock.
The two candidates each received an additional vote. Since Olsen won the coin toss conducted last week, she was officially declared the winner.
“It’s a big relief,” Olsen said yesterday. “It was just so stressful.”
Olsen and her fiance kept a watchful eye over the recount. They watched as Selectmen Thomas Tombarello and Hans Nicolaisen counted the votes along with Budget Committee member Dawn Nicolaisen, town moderator Nelson Rheaume and Town Clerk Michelle Short.
After Olsen and Cleveland tied on election night, officials stayed late that night and counted the ballots again. Yesterday, a more detailed count occurred.
They started the recount by going through the warrant articles and school ballots to make sure no ballots were accidentally placed in the wrong pile. Tombarello found a ballot page in a different pile, but it didn't change anything since the person did not vote for treasurer.
“Something as simple as that could have ended up making such a huge difference,” Tombarello said.
They then moved on to the ballots considered null. The pile was full of ballots either left blank or where residents mistakenly voted for two candidates for one position. There, Tombarello found a vote for Olsen placed in the wrong pile.
“Once that extra vote of hers was found, I knew it was done,” Cleveland said.
They then split the pile into thirds. One pile for Olsen, one for Cleveland and one for James Devine, who finished third in the race.
Devine received 209 votes, while Cleveland and Olsen each finished with 233.
Olsen hugged her fiance along with the officials who counted the votes. She was sworn in immediately by Short.
“She was the only newly elected officer who didn’t get sworn in on Monday at the Board of Selectmen’s meeting,” Short said. “We wanted to make sure that got done quickly.”
Cleveland was disappointed but said he could now rest easier.
“There would always have been some doubt,” he said. “I would have always wondered if maybe I would have won.”
But it was not to be, although Tombarello jokingly offered a suggestion to Cleveland following the recount.
“How about a best of three?” he said.