LACONIA — When the ballots cast in the Sept. 10 primary election for the City Council seat in Ward 5 were recounted yesterday, the results confirmed, as Dave Gammon believed, that former mayor Tom Tardif received three write-in votes, qualifying him for a place on the general election ballot in November — if he wants it.
City Clerk Mary Reynolds has written to Tardif, who has yet to indicate his intentions, advising him that he has 10 days to decide whether or not to be a candidate for City Council in the general election on November 5. Tardif could not be reached after the recount, but Gammon said that he told him he intended call at City Hall and inform Reynolds of his decision some time today.
The City Charter stipulates that the two candidates receiving the most votes for each office in the primary election shall advance to the general election in November. In Ward 5, incumbent City Councilor Bob Hamel, who ran unopposed in the primary, was declared the winner with 39 of 47 ballots cast. Although election officials reported no write-in votes for city councilor, a computer print-out indicated that three write-in ballots were cast in the race.
Gammon claimed that he, his wife and another woman cast write-in ballots for Tardif. Election officials reported that Tardif received three of four write-in votes cast for ward clerk, but none for city councilor.
When Reynolds and Kaileif Mitchell, the moderator in Ward 5, counted the ballots by hand yesterday Tardif received all three of the write-in votes for city councilor. On three ballots the space for write-in votes for ward clerk was circled, but no name was written on the ballot.
Although Gammon questioned the results days after the election, the deadline for requesting a recount had passed. Instead, Gammon petitioned the Belknap County Superior Coiurt to order City Clerk Mary Reynolds, who otherwise has no authority to open the ballots, to conduct a recount. After a brief hearing on Wednesday before Justice James D. O'Neill, III, Reynolds and Gammon entered an agreement, which was ratified by Justice Larry Smukler of Merrimack County Superior Court, to hold the recount yesterday.
Gammon had also asked the court to order the city to reimburse him for his $278 in court costs. A hearing on the issue is scheduled in Merrimack County Superior Court on November 19, but in the meantime city attorney Laura Spector-Morgan offered to approach City Manager Scott Myers about footing the bill to spare the city further legal costs.
"I've been vindicated," said Gammon. "Now I want my money back."
Reynolds said that the dispute has already delayed her preparations for the general election on November 5 by more than week. She said that if Tardif has not notified her of his decision by the end of this week, she will order the ballots to be printed and the machines programmed for Wards 1, 2, 3 ,4 and 6 on Monday. "I was trained to avoid paying the set-up fee twice," she said, explaining that to print and program for Ward 5 separately could add $500 or more to the cost of preparing election materials.
Reynolds said that she aims to print the general election ballots and distribute absentee ballots at least 30 calendar days before the general election. She expects to distribute absentee ballots next week.