082913i-Dennis-Carlone

City council winner Dennis Carlone is gearing up for legal fees in case he gets caught up in a ballot recount.

City Council candidates are gearing up for a recount of Tuesday’s election.

Dennis Carlone, one of four challengers winning a seat in the election, is taking the most significant step in preparation by planning a recount legal fee fundraiser from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Nov. 17 at ZuZu in Central Square and asking people to donate online.

“We’re feeling like we need to be proactive,” said Lisa Mosczynski, Carlone’s campaign manager. “This system is very unique to the city. It’s not like you can get quickly get lots of attorneys to look at this.”

Carlone is not the one asking for the recount, though. The most likely call for one – after overseas and provisional ballots are tallied and election results become official Nov. 15 – would be from Minka vanBeuzekom, who was elected to the council in 2009 but unseated Tuesday with 24-year incumbent Ken Reeves.

After Wednesday’s hand count of auxiliary ballots, which are the ballots polling-place machines didn’t accept and count Tuesday, only six transfer voters lay between vanBeuzekom and council newcomer Nadeem Mazen. Thirteen votes separate vanBeuzekom and Dennis Carlone, another council newcomer, and 20 separate her from returning incumbent Craig Kelley. All three are considered vulnerable to losing a seat from the redistribution of votes that can result from a recount under Cambridge’s proportional representation form of balloting.

“Everyone’s at risk,” Mosczynski said. “There are so few votes between us all.”

Recount process

A recount can be costly and time consuming. It took 11 hours Wednesday to look at 2,386 auxiliary votes, and the city’s Election Commission said there were 17,737 valid ballots cast in the council election.

For context, election watchers point to a School Committee recount in 2001 that cost the city $38,509. The work was expected to take at least six days, as recounted on Robert Winters’ Cambridge Civic Journal, but the 10-candidate recount – with 1,220 fewer ballots – took a full two weeks, including a Saturday on which commissioners worked literally overnight. Results become known after 5 a.m., Winters wrote, and “the hand recount very closely matched the original computer tally,” adding votes to some candidates but not changing who won.

It was the first recount under a computerized voting system installed in 1997, according to the Harvard Crimson. The margin of votes between losing incumbent Susana Segat and then challenger Richard Harding? Six votes.

The process obliges commissioners to look at ballots one by one to try to discern a voter’s intent, with commissioners voting to find a majority when intent is elusive. Candidates will need to have observers present in case commissioners make a decision that hurts them by taking away a vote or keeping from them a vote they feel is theirs, and “to not have counsel there is, I think, risky. We’re trying to protect our No. 1 votes,” Mosczynski said.

What candidates expect

vanBeuzekom

Incumbent Minka vanBeuzekom could call for a recount within 10 days of Nov. 15.

Over the weekend, vanBeuzekom agreed Carlone’s fundraising made sense, as he could be caught up in her bid to close the six-ballot gap between her and Mazen. “I’m not surprised, he’s just being prepared,” vanBeuzekom said. “It’s likely the recount will change enough to affect the outcome for potentially him or Craig as well.”

After overseas and provisional ballots are counted Nov. 15, vanBeuzekom has 10 days to gather 50 signatures of registered Cambridge voters and file a recount petition with the commission.

Mazen thought the threat might evaporate as more votes came in.

“We tentatively expect to come out ahead here by enough of a margin to avoid a recount,” Mazen said. “Of course, luck favors the prepared. So we’re thinking about other eventualities too.”

“The chances are high that the next shuffle of transfer ballots will put us substantially ahead. We saw Carlone, McGovern and Kelley jump in number – but not in order – despite the fact that the actual auxiliary ballots didn’t seem to explain some of those shifts. That’s all because the transfer votes that ended up being counted all got shifted by the incoming votes. That is likely to happen again with overseas or provisional votes,” he said.

Kelley was away for the weekend and didn’t return a request for comment.

111013i cash on hand

Carlone raised $26,684.38 for his campaign and spent all but $8,442.01 through Oct. 31 that can be used to pay for additional election expenses, according to Office for Campaign & Political Finance. Mazen has $4,473.05 on hand, Kelley has $9,635.59 and vanBeuzekom is sitting on $12,875.81.

The Carlone fundraiser – set for two days after the deadline for a recount request – is from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Nov. 17 at ZuZu, 474 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square. There will be food and a cash bar. The online fundraising page is here, saying he hopes to raise $13,200. By Sunday, 18 contributors had donated $1,741 toward that goal.