Sunday, May 26, 2024

The Election Commission will be counting auxiliary ballots — write-ins and other wild cards keeping election results from being settled — until 7 tonight at the Central Square Senior Center, a two-hour extension from the official schedule.

That will — hopefully — set up the count for finishing Thursday and clarifying who will be serving on the City Council and School Committee, said Marsha Weinerman, the commission’s executive director.

“We want to finish tomorrow and we’re going to do everything we can to finish tomorrow,” she said at about 4:20 p.m., shortly after the count reached a little over 1,000 ballots. (Of course, truly final results won’t be in until overseas absentee ballots are looked at Nov. 13.) There are 3,590 auxiliary ballots for the council and 1,017 for the committee, and politics guru Robert Winters explains why: Some scanners weren’t working for part of Election Day, and ballots completed then were accepted as auxiliary.

Most of the Council ballots resulted from the write-in campaign of City Councillor Marjorie Decker, who missed a filing deadline to be on the traditional ballot. Winters says she’s estimated to have 1,285 No. 1 votes, and distribution from candidates dropped through the city’s proportional representation system could raise that number enough to allow her to keep her seat.

Councillor Larry Ward is also at risk of losing his position, with challengers Leland Cheung and Edward Sullivan the likely beneficiaries.

Although still only four of 33 precincts have been looked at, the count will speed up as it goes on: The commission has tackled the toughest precincts first, meaning the areas with the most auxiliary ballots, Weinerman said. (Update: In fact, the commission structured the count to look at the precincts with the most ballots seen to have Decker as the No. 1 choice for a council seat, which doesn’t sync up perfectly with precincts with the most auxiliary ballots. Precinct 3-3, for instance, was placed high in the count because it had 35 such ballots with Decker as the No. 1 choice out of 92 total; Precinct 3-2 had 105 ballots that will be looked at later because there were only 21 write-ins for Decker among them.)

“It took us a while to get everything sorted and ready to go,” she said. “We’ve got a pretty good rhythm down.”