Gammon asks judge to open ballot box so those 3 write-in votes can be verified

LACONIA — Dave Gammon yesterday petitioned the Belknap County Superior Court to order a recount of the primary election results in Ward 5, where three write-in votes for the City Council were cast, but not recorded.

"We had no alternative," Gammon said, adding that the he will pay close to to $300 to file the suit.

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. No write-in votes for city councilor were reported. However, a computer print-out reports that three write-in ballots were cast in the race.

The City Charter makes no specific reference to write-in votes, but simply prescribes that the two candidates receiving the most votes for each office shall advance to the general election in November.

Gammon claims that he, his wife and another woman cast write-in ballots for his friend, former mayor Tom Tardif, which would account for the three write-in votes for city council that appear on the computer print-out. Election officials reported that Tardif received three of four write-in votes for ward clerk, but none for city council. If Gammon's claim is confirmed, the City Clerk would be bound to offer Tardif a place on the ballot for the general election, which he could either accept or decline.

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 fell yesterday. But, when Tardif met with Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan on Thursday, he was told that this process applied only to questions, not candidates, on the ballot and advised him to approach the Superior Court.

Yesterday Gammon submitted a petition with the signatures of 10 registered votes and asked the court to set aside the the reported results of the primary election in Ward 5 and direct the City Clerk to "schedule a recount or review of the three write-in ballots." Alternatively, he suggested the court review the ballots to identify who received the second highest number of votes in the primary election and therefore, qualified for the general election. He also asked the court to instruct the clerk not to print the ballots for the general election until "the irregularities in the conduct and reporting" of the primary election are resolved. Finally he asked the curt to award him "out of pocket expense for having to correct the results of the Ward 5 primary election results."

Meanwhile, Tardif has not decided whether or not to run in November in the event that a recount confirms that he polled the second highest number of votes for City Council.