LACONIA — An alleged oversight by those working the polls in Ward 5 during the recent primary election has former city councilor Dave Gammon and former mayor Tom Tardif questioning the electoral process.
City Councilor Bob Hamel, running for re-election without opposition, received 39 of the 47 ballots cast on Sept. 10. After closing the polls and tallying the votes, the ward clerk and selectmen delivered the ballots and reported the results to City Clerk Mary Reynolds at City Hall. The paperwork did not indicate that anyone received a write-in vote for city council.
If write-in votes are cast, the person with the most, which could be as few as a single vote, is notified by the City Clerk that they have qualified for the general election in November and asks if they wish for their name to be placed on the ballot.
On Friday the 13th, Gammon went to City Hall and asked for a copy of the results. Gammon, who along with his wife, cast write-in votes for Tardif for city council was troubled to discover no write-in votes were recorded and Tardif would not appear on the general election ballot.
Reynolds said that since the results were certified and the ballots sealed, the only way to address the situation would be for Tardif to request, in writing, a recount by the close of business on the first Friday after the election. Alternatively, she explained to Gammon that five registered voters could petition the New Hampshire Secretary of State to conduct a recount before the second Friday after the election or, failing that, petition the Superior Court to order a recount.
This week Gammon and Tardif requested and received a computer print-out of the election results, which showed three-write-in votes for the city council seat in Ward 5. Subsequently, Gammon received a call from a voter, who said that she also cast a write-in ballot for Tardif.
Reynolds explained that the ballots are sealed before they leave the polling station and cannot be opened except in accordance with the statutes governing recounts. Without recounting the ballots there is no way of confirming the number of write-in votes that were cast or the identity of those whose names were in.
Tardif said yesterday that he understands the dilemma facing the clerk and expects five registered voters to petition the Secretary of State for a recount before the week is out. He said that Gammon is determined to ensure that his vote, along with those of any others who cast write-in ballots, are counted.
Asked if he will run against Hamel in the general election if a recount awards him a place on the ballot, Tardif replied "that's a hard question. I'm not going to put my foot in my mouth until I've seen the ballots."