By Keith Eddings
---- — LAWRENCE — City Clerk William Maloney yesterday tentatively scheduled a Nov. 23 recount of the 15,210 ballots cast in last week's mayoral election, hours after Mayor William Lantigua submitted petitions requesting the recount in an effort to undo his 58-vote loss to Daniel Rivera.
Maloney did not respond to questions about the number of signatures that were received and validated. But Lantigua's lawyer said the petitions bore more than 330 names and that all but one was cleared by the city's Election Division and sent on to the Board of Registrars, which will have the final say when it meets Saturday.
City Attorney Charles Boddy said 250 signatures were received, and 249 were cleared. In any case, just 60 were required, at least 10 of them from each of the city's six wards.
Lantigua did not return a phone call yesterday. But in a posting on Facebook in Spanish, he made his strongest claims yet that the election was tainted, but he was not specific.
“We have reason to believe that (your votes were) not counted properly and that there were irregularities that marred the clarity of the process. (We) want to reiterate to you, my family, we stay completely (calm) until this process finishes.”
Lantigua’s lawyer, Sal Tabit added in an interview yesterday, “Our hope is for an orderly and transparent count of all ballots cast in the Nov. 5 mayoral race, such that no citizen of Lawrence or any observer from across the Commonwealth is left with any doubt that all votes were counted, and that each vote was attributed to the proper candidate.”
“We'll be prepared to defend every vote,” said Rivera, a two-term city councilor whose margin over Lantigua is less than four-tenths of a percentage point. “We'll be equal to the task.”
When the Board of Registrars meets Saturday to formally certify the recall petitions, it will also schedule the recount, which it will oversee.
Boddy said nine days are needed to resolve issues involving logistics and manpower before the recount can be held, including securing a location large enough to accommodate the 24 tables — one for each voting precinct — and the more than 100 people who would attend, including the three members of the Board of Registrars, election wardens and clerks, observers for Lantigua and Rivera and the media.
Rivera’s fragile lead solidified a bit this week when Maloney awarded him the last of the 57 provisional ballots that were considered and when three absentee ballots were discarded because their origins could not be determined.
Only ballots arriving from overseas may still be counted. Today is the deadline for their receipt.
Also yesterday, Tabit sent a letter to Rivera and Maloney suggesting that the around-the-clock police detail watching over the ballots at City Hall should be reduced from two officers to one — or even zero — to save money.
At six officers a day — two for each of the three shifts — the detail is costing Lawrence about $2,100 a day. In all, the city has spent about $21,000 for the cop-watch so far and would spend another $17,000 by the Nov. 23 recount.
The officers are earning time-and-a-half because the details are not part of their regular shifts. One is stationed at each of the vault's two entrances.
“These ballots are sealed and in a locked vault,” Tabit said. “I understand why security is a concern, but some common sense solutions could resolve some of these things. The mayor is aware of the cost and is concerned about it and that's why I sent a letter to the clerk's office and the Rivera campaign. I suggested going down to one officer, but I'm not adverse to discussing the possibility of zero.”
Rivera said the cops should stay.
“I think it's prudent to have both police officers there,” he said.
The recount in Lawrence will be one of at least three around the state scheduled for later this month.
In Amesbury on Thursday, the town's Board of Registrars will recount the 4,182 ballots cast for mayor in a race incumbent Thatcher Kezer lost to newcomer Ken Gray by two votes.
In Palmer on Nov. 26, registrars will recount the 5,221 votes cast in a ballot question that would have allowed Mohegan Sun to build a casino in the western Massachusetts town. Voters rejected the casino by 93 votes.