Judge Barry Stevens has legal issues to sort out including tabulation challenges to his court-ordered hand count of all the ballots cast in the August 9 Democratic primary between incumbent State Rep. Jack Hennessy and City Councilman Marcus Brown.
Jowanne Burks, head moderator for the mandated hand count, has filed her report with the Town Clerk’s Office and state that was also submitted to the court, certifying a two-vote victory for Brown, 573-571.
Hennessy has filed a cross complaint with the court. See here.
Testimony could commence on Friday.
On primary night Brown had a five-vote lead. In the state-required recount fed through optical scanners Hennessy picked up six votes and thus a one-vote lead, a result certified despite election officials acknowledging nine absentee ballots not included in the tabulation.
The Brown campaign asserted after the recount those votes would advantage them and validate a victory. An appeal was filed with the court. Stevens ordered a hand recount approved by both campaigns and the City Attorney’s Office that represents local election officials named as defendants.
The nine votes during the hand count were discovered, misplaced in the bag of another district result. They went 6-3 for Brown who received a two-vote margin.
A lead, yes; but still a court fight.
Lawyers for the Brown and Hennessy camps are both expected to file briefs with the court challenging vote decisions from the hand count where human observation comes into play. In a hand count election officials eyeball the ballots, which could lead to some exceptions from the optical scan machines.
Challenges will address “over-votes” when it is deemed a voter fills in the oval of both candidates and therefore disqualified in the official tabulation. It’s not always cut and dry. What was the intent of the voter when the bubble was filled incomplete, halfway, a check here, a circle there?
Yes, this can be a painful exercise in nuance. Think hanging chad from the 2000 presidential vote in Florida, but minute scale.
All the lawyers in this case are skilled litigators: John Kennelly for Brown, William Bloss for Hennessy, John Bohannon for the city.
Kennelly may argue we actually have a larger lead, Bloss may assert they got this wrong and my client must be deemed ahead, Bohannon will represent the veracity of election officials who made the decisions.
Judge Stevens will sort it all out.
Having fun yet?