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Recount Countdown in North Adams

Staff reportsiBerkshires
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David Lamarre and Keith Bona, both at left, wait for a decision on a challenged ballot on Saturday at City Hall.
Update Sunday, Nov. 22, 2009: Keith Bona, who was behind by three votes to newcomer David Lamarre, picked up enough after Saturday's recount to secure the ninth seat on the City Council. Bona was returned to the council by a mere two votes: 2,448 to 2,446.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Election officials began the recount of City Council ballots at 9 a.m. this morning but there's no guarantee the ninth city councilor will be determined by Saturday's end.

"We should have the ballots counted but I don't know if we'll have the [vote] tally," said City Clerk Marilyn Gomeau at about 2:30 p.m. If not, Gomeau said the counting will begin again on Sunday. "I don't want to look at this on Monday."

Poll workers were steadily making their way through more than 5,000 ballots today to determine the placement of candidates David Lamarre and Keith Bona. Lamarre lead former council member Bona by only three votes in the Nov. 3 general election, prompting Bona to call for a recount.

This is the first time in a decade that the city's done a recount. That recount saw Bona drop from eighth to ninth and hang onto his seat by a single vote.

This past election saw seven incumbents and eight challengers vie for the nine council seats. Of the incumbents, only Robert M. Moulton Jr. lost his seat and newcomers David Bond and Michael Boland were elected.

Election officials were working in teams of two — one reading off names and the other marking them on a control sheet — on packets of 50 ballots at a time. Counters were toting up the control sheets as they were completed. Challenged votes meant a huddle with Gomeau, members of the Board of Registrar of Voters and the candidates.

While the election ballots had been screened by machine during the election, the recount had to done either completely by hand or completely by machine. The issue has been whether the machines correctly identified marked ballots. If the circle beside a name was not completely filled in, the machine may not have registered it. More than 11,000 "blanks" had been registered in the election.

Election officials read off the ballots. Right, packets of ballots ready to be counted.
Of course the opposite is true, too. Bona said he lost one vote that the machine had recorded but which the Board Registrars rejected: "It was a pencil mark right in the middle of the circle."

Both Bona and Lamarre were keeping a close eye on the count, along with a number of other observors including Councilors Lisa Blackmer, Gailanne Cariddi and Marie Harpin. All the City Council votes have to be recounted since the top nine vote-getters are elected.

Bona said it was difficult to determine who was ahead or behind at this point because both had gained and lost votes.

Gomeau praised the dedication and professionalism of the election workers.

"These people are fantastic," she said. "Without them this would never be able to take place."
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North Adams Council President Hopkins Tenders Resignation

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The president of the City Council has submitted his resignation effective Friday.
Paul Hopkins, in is second term, said he is leaving the council for personal and professional reasons. Hopkins has had his home for sale for some months and had not intended to run for re-election this year.
"Things came together faster than I sort of had in my head," he said on Tuesday. "The time is now and I'm excited about a new direction."
Hopkins said he had informed Mayor Thomas Bernard and copied his council colleagues on his brief letter of resignation to the city clerk. It would be up to the council to determine whether to fill his seat or wait for the new government next January, he said.
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