2012-11-15 / News

Absentee ballots don’t affect election results

GOP’s Blake Dickinson will be minority town councilor

When the Town Council convenes Monday, five new members will raise their right hand and take an oath of office. Democrats Kristine Trocki, Mary Meagher, Tom Tighe and Gene Mihaly will be joined by Republican Blake Dickinson as the newly elected Town Council.

Trocki garnered the most support. She received 2,240 votes in the Nov. 6 general election. Meagher finished second with 1,918 votes. The other winners were Tighe with 1,520 votes, Mihaly with 1,493 and Dickinson with 1,395.

When the Jamestown Press was published Nov. 7, about 350 absentee ballots were still pending. While the town’s Board of Canvassers is responsible for submitting results from ballots casted at Lawn Avenue School and Town Hall, the state Board of Elections is tasked with counting absentee ballots.

Typically, absentee ballots are counted and made official on the Wednesday following Election Day. This year, because of an uptick in mail-in ballots, the Board of Elections didn’t finished tallying the tickets until late Thursday afternoon.

Aside from Trocki and Meagher, who received 2,017 and 1,712 votes respectively from standard ballots, none of the other Town Council candidates knew their fate.

As it was, the voting trend continued, and each of the five candidates leading after polls closed Nov. 6 were still on top following Nov. 8’s release of the mail-in ballots.

While it was still mathematically possible for Tighe and Mihaly to be eliminated after the state released absentee results, it was a long shot. But the fifth seat was too close to call, with Dickinson, Republican Paul Sprague and the incumbent Ellen Winsor all within 75 votes. Of the three, Dickinson received the least support from mail-in ballots, but the margin was so small it didn’t affect him. Prior to the Board of Elections releasing mail-in results, Dickinson had 1,277 votes to Winsor’s 1,209 and Sprague’s 1,202. Fortunately for Dickinson, he received just six less mail-in votes than Winsor, and two less than Sprague.

The other three candidates who threw their hat in the ring were Democrat George Levesque and Independents Bill Harsh and Dan Capuano. Levesque received 1,280 votes, Harsh received 1,246, and Capuano received 1,188. Evan Katz, who bowed out of the race but was still on the ballot, garnered 383 votes.

Of the 4,851 registered votes, approximately 3,624 ballots were cast. According to Canvassing Clerk Karen Montoya, the reason the number is approximate is because she wasn’t sure how many of the people who requested an absentee ballot actually mailed it in.

Because it was a general election with a presidential race, the voter turnout this year compared to the 2009 Town Council election was significantly higher. Of the 4,642 voters in 2009, only 1,595 casted a ballot. That’s just 34 percent. Last week, 75 percent of registered residents voted.

In the other town races, Democrats Cathy Kaiser and Julia Held were re-elected to the School Committee. Kaiser, who has been the board’s chairwoman since 2001, received 2,366 votes. Held garnered 2,279 votes.

While Kaiser and Held had a big enough lead after the polls closed that the absentee ballots wouldn’t have affected them, the third seat for School Committee wasn’t offi cial until the mail-in votes were counted. Democrat Ryan Conlon, who is only 21, had a 241-vote lead over Republican Lowell Thomas before the absentee results were announced. While it was a long shot, it was still mathematically possible for Thomas to get elected. But Conlon held on, increasing his advantage with 186 mail-in votes compared to Thomas’ 146.

The last town race wasn’t much of a race at all. Local attorney John Murphy, running unopposed, received 98 percent of the vote for town moderator. The remaining 2 percent came from 69 write-ins.

All winners for seats in the state General Assembly and for U.S. Congress had comfortable enough leads where the absentee ballots were irrelevant. State Rep. Deb Ruggiero, R.I. Sen. President Teresa Paiva Weed, U.S. Rep. David Cicilline and U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse all won their bids for re-election.

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