MIDDLESEX — The numbers changed but the winner didn’t following a recount designed to determine who Middlesex voters elected to represent them on the U-32 School Board last week.
Challenger Charles Merriman padded his barely perceptible two-vote lead over veteran board member Adrienne Magida, according to the recount that was verbally requested by Magida on Town Meeting Day after learning of her narrow loss.
Magida subsequently requested a hand recount in writing, satisfying a statutory requirement and setting the stage for a recount that was wrapped up in less than 30 minutes.
The machine count from last Tuesday’s elections had Merriman ahead of Magida by two votes, 169-167, in a race that included 15 blank ballots and three “over votes” that could conceivably have changed the outcome.
They did, though not by tipping the race to Magida or creating a tie, which would have required a special election to determine the winner.
Merriman actually picked up a vote in the recount, which was run by Assistant Town Clerk Maryke Gillis because his wife and her boss, Town Clerk Sarah Merriman, was conflicted out.
Gillis sounded optimistic that the Board of Civil Authority members assembled to conduct the recount could quickly determine the winner.
“I find it hard to believe that we won’t be able to figure this out,” Gillis said, noting the vote tabulator used last Tuesday recorded the results of 354 ballots.
That number produced a bit of intrigue early on as the initial count of three two-member teams indicated there were only 353 ballots — 168 cast for Merriman, 167 for Magida and a mix of 18 over votes and under votes.
A subsequent count of a stack of ballots cast for Merriman found the missing ballot — restoring his two-vote lead and shifting focus to the 18 miscellaneous ballots. No votes were recorded in the U-32 race on 15 of those ballots, two contained clearly cast votes for both candidates and were discounted. One, which showed a vote cast for Merriman and a “smudge” on the oval next to Magida’s name, was awarded to Merriman, who was declared the winner of the race, 170-167.
Merriman’s election comes on the heels of a controversial comment he made to a Worcester School Board member during the organizational meeting of the Washington Central Unified Union School District that was adjourned at his request. Merriman called Matthew DeGroot a “Nazi” — a comment for which he has since apologized — and precipitated his decision to withdraw from the legal team representing 33 school boards challenging mergers ordered under Act 46.
Middlesex and three of the five other districts in the Washington Central Supervisory Union are among the plaintiffs in the pending lawsuit. U-32 isn’t one of them.
Uncertainty about the outcome of Monday’s recount prompted the U-32 board to defer its scheduled reorganization last week. Magida had served as the board’s chairwoman — a key role that will now fall to one of the other members.