The planned recount of votes cast in Lowell during last week's 3rd Congressional District primary will go on as planned, according to the office of Secretary of State William Galvin.
Galvin's decision comes despite a request from Dan Koh's campaign that the recount not be held until an investigation into Lowell's election process is complete.
Debra O'Malley, spokeswoman for Galvin's office, said Galvin intends to hold the recount in Lowell as scheduled. That recount is scheduled to start Sunday.
"Secretary Galvin has an obligation to make sure all ballots are counted, and he intends to make sure the recount in Lowell is completed by Monday," O'Malley said.
The results of last week's 3rd Congressional District primary show that Koh of Andover and Lori Trahan of Westford are separated by a 122-vote margin in favor of Trahan. Koh received 18,405 votes to Trahan’s 18,527, last week's count showed.
Trahan and Koh were the two top vote-getters in the Democratic primary to succeed Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, D-Lowell, who is retiring after a decade in office. In all, there were 10 candidates in the field. The winner of the primary will face Republican Rick Green of Pepperell and unaffiliated candidate Mike Mullen of Maynard in November.
Koh campaign lawyer Gerald McDonough sent a letter to Galvin on Thursday outlining McDonough's concerns with Galvin's investigation into the "practices and procedures of the Lowell Election Department."
McDonough noted that a letter from Galvin to Lowell election officials and a letter from those officials to Galvin "raise significant concerns" about the integrity of the primary in Lowell and that both letters "present more questions than answers."
In his letter to Galvin, McDonough questioned the integrity of the voting in Lowell. McDonough's letter noted that some of the most "egregious" examples outlined in the letters by Lowell elections officials and Galvin include Lowell's claim that its voting machines are 20 years old and that extreme heat caused multiple machines to malfunction on Sept. 4; that Lowell initially provided incomplete vote counts to the top two candidates in the Democratic primary; that the chains of custody and security of ballots violated state law; and that a significant number of precincts failed to reconcile the number of ballots voted as compared to the check-in and check-out lists.
"In short, from what has been learned since we petitioned for a recount, we are gravely concerned about the credibility of the Lowell election results," McDonough said in his letter to Galvin.
"We are concerned, however, that conducting the Lowell recount before your investigation is complete will negatively affect the credibility of the final result," McDonough's letter went on to say. "Many of the irregularities that gave rise to the investigation — notably, the defective machines, the questionable chain of custody in handling ballots, and the failure to reconcile ballots with the check-in, check-out lists are apt to affect not only the initial count, but the recount as well."
Galvin announced on Wednesday that the recount he ordered of ballots from the Sept. 4 primary would begin Thursday in Methuen and some other communities in the district, and that Lowell would begin its recount on Sunday.
Galvin said he would be exercising his authority under state law to take direct control of the election offices in Lawrence and Lowell. He cited a lack of experienced election staff in Lawrence and errors in the processing of ballots and the tallying of state primary results in Lowell as his reasons for the takeovers.
On Thursday morning, the first day of recounts in the district got off to a slow yet methodical start in Methuen.
Methuen is among the first three communities to begin the recount process Thursday. Though Methuen’s recount was scheduled to begin at 8 a.m., city employees and election workers manning tables in the Great Hall of City Hall were still sorting ballots as of 10:30 a.m. Volunteers from the Trahan and Koh campaigns hovered, watching and waiting.
O'Malley, the spokeswoman for Galvin’s office, said campaign volunteers are allowed to observe and protest the way a ballot is called by the teller, which is the person reading the ballots and tallying them.
"In the case of protested ballots, the campaign’s counsel will argue before the Board of Registrars or Elections Commission, which will determine how the ballot should be counted," O'Malley said.