LAWRENCE — Down just 60 votes out of 15,190 cast Tuesday, a shaken but characteristically defiant Mayor William Lantigua yesterday began laying the groundwork for a recount while stopping short of demanding one.
The process began at 9 a.m., just 14 hours after the polls closed, when lawyers for Lantigua and for challenger Daniel Rivera arrived at the Election Division in the basement of City Hall to pour through 54 affidavits filed by voters whose ballots were set aside Tuesday because their names could not be found in the voter rolls or because of a discrepancy in the records.
As their work stretched past noon, Rivera arrived with about 100 supporters and a throng of Boston media at Campagnone Common across from City Hall, where the two-term city councilor reclaimed victory and promised to fight any challenge to his fragile and still unofficial margin of victory.
Rivera — leading Lantigua by four-tenths of 1 percent — also took a first step toward forming an administration by announcing he would begin naming his transition team today.
“We fought for every vote,” Rivera told his supporters at the rally outside City Hall, speaking within easy earshot of Lantigua's third-floor corner office. “We'll protect every vote. And we'll make sure this election does not get stolen.”
The 54 provisional ballots alone would not be enough to reverse Tuesday's result, but they could whittle Rivera's tiny margin and place Lantigua within striking distance as absentee ballots still in the mail arrive at City Hall.
Absentee ballots postmarked by Tuesday and mailed from oversees have until Nov. 15 to arrive, although the deadline for ballots mailed within the United States is several days shorter, City Attorney Charles Boddy said. There is no estimate for how many absentee ballots may be in the mail.
There's also a third wild card that could help tip the election: voters whose eligibility was challenged Tuesday even though they were on the rolls were allowed to cast their ballots and see them counted, but the ballots could be discounted if Lantigua demands a recount. The challenged ballots were marked before they were fed to scanners at the polling places but were not otherwise recorded, so their number will remain unknown unless a recount occurs.