LACONIA — Former mayor Tom Tardif discovered yesterday that he may have to pay a pretty penny to determine whether he received three write-in votes in the primary election for City Council in Ward 5, as his friend and former councilor Dave Gammon claims.
When the polls were closed on September 10, votes tallied and ballots sealed, incumbent city councilor Bob Hamel, who ran unopposed, was declared the winner with 39 of 47 ballots cast. In an apparent oversight by those working the polls, no write-in votes were reported. However, a computer print-out indicated that three write-in ballots were cast.
Gammon contends that he, his wife and another woman cast write-in votes for Tardif. Since the City Charter provides for the two candidates with the most voters to advance to the general election in general, if Gammon's claim is confirmed, Tardif would be entitled to a place on the ballot.
But, Gammon's claim can only be verified by opening and counting the ballots and that requires more than scissors and a calculator. A recount must be requested before the close of business on the first Friday after the election, a deadline that passed last week.
On the strength of advice from the city attorney, Laura Spector-Morgan, City Clerk Mary Reynolds advised Gammon and Tardif that five registered voters could petition the New Hampshire Secretary of State to conduct a recount before the second Friday after the election, which falls tomorrow. However, Tardif said that when he met with Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan yesterday he was informed that this process applied only to questions, not candidates, on the ballot and advised to approach the Superior Court.
Tardif said that the clerk of the Belknap County Superior Court told him he could file a petition asking the court to order a recount, but that would cost close to $300 in court fees. Moreover, Tardif said that when he filed suit against the Belknap County Convention earlier this year, Justice James D. O'Neill, III transferred his case to Grafton County Superior Court , apparently to avoid a conflict of interest.
"Can you imagine the costs incurred just because everyone is saying "'it's not me'?" Tardif exclaimed. "It's a Catch 22." He said that he has not decided whether or not he would run in the general election should a recount show that he polled enough write-in votes to qualify. Instead, he said that the greater issue is to ensure that votes that are cast are counted.
I can't imagine forklng out that kind of money to help the city correct an error," he continued. "But, if we don't file the cloud over the election will be there forever."