BARRE — Sue Higby was literally counted out of office on Friday.
Days after Higby narrowly lost her Ward 1 City Council seat to John Steinman, a hand recount affirmed the Town Meeting Day result.
Conducted by five members of the Board of Civil Authority and a poll worker recruited by City Clerk Carol Dawes, the recount took 45 minutes and confirmed Steinman defeated Higby 170-161.
That mirrored Tuesday night’s machine count right down to the write-in vote cast for Gino Salvatore, one “over vote” and 10 ballots that reflected no vote was cast for either candidate.
“The results are exactly (the same),” said Dawes, who wondered at the outset whether the “over vote” the machine couldn’t count could be assigned to one of the two candidates. That would have changed the machine-counted result but not the outcome of the race.
That wasn’t the case.
The “over vote” was quickly found by one of three two-member teams, and on a day when their duty was to discern “voter intent,” none argued about the ballot in question. Neither did any of the spectators, which included Steinman but not Higby. The ballot showed votes for both candidates and could not be awarded to either.
“It’s a textbook example of an over vote,” said Dawes, who noted had there been an “X” through one of the filled-in ovals next to one of the candidates’ names, the vote could have been added to that person’s tally.
Though not unusual, that was not the case, and the recount proceeded with only one quickly resolved glitch.
One of the three teams came up with different counts after tallying the votes from one of several stacks of 50 ballots. The discrepancy was resolved when the stack was recounted: Each team member read what was reflected on the ballot while another recorded those results, before swapping roles.
Though Higby requested the recount, she noted at that time she didn’t expect it would alter the outcome. Given the close nature of the race, she believed a hand recount would validate the results.
Higby had hoped to win a second two-year term on the council a year after losing a mayoral race to Lucas Herring, who represented Ward 3 at the time. But Higby came up just short in a race that saw Steinman exploit what he characterized as Higby’s lack of civility on the council.
Dawes intentionally avoided asking council members to assist with the recount to avoid any appearance of a conflict. She instead asked Board of Civil Authority members and recruited poll worker Carl Williams to assist.
Board members approved Williams’ participation as Dawes walked them through the statutory procedure and then retrieved a canvas bag containing the Ward 1 ballots that were locked in storage since Tuesday’s election.
The teams separated the 343 ballots into stacks of 50 and then counted and recounted each of those stacks.
At the conclusion, Steinman thanked those who participated and was then sworn in. He’s scheduled to attend his first City Council meeting as a member on Tuesday.
Brandon Batham, who chose not to run for re-election to his Ward 2 seat, told Dawes he would deliver Higby’s granite nameplate to her and took his own at the same time.
When the seven-member council convenes on Tuesday, it will have two new members. Steinman will fill Higby’s seat, and Edward “Teddy” Waszazak will replace Batham.
Waszazak defeated Renita Marshall in a competitive Ward 2 race, 156-121. Councilor Rich Morey, who had worked with Higby on the issue of vacant and abandoned buildings, ran unopposed and was easily re-elected in Ward 3.