Recount Expected Monday For Pittsfield Mayor's Race

Nov 22, 2019

Updated 2:00 p.m.

The city clerk in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, said a recount of the mayoral race will take place starting Monday at 8:30 a.m.

The request for a recount came from City Councilor Melissa Mazzeo after she lost to incumbent Mayor Linda Tyer by more than 500 votes.

On election night, as Linda Tyer's supporters cheered her on, the mayor noted how hard her campaign had worked to win.

"Look what we did," Tyer said. "For two elections in a row, our message about building a stronger city resonated in every precinct across this city."

But now, Tyer's opponent, Mazzeo, is questioning the results.

Mazzeo did not agree to a recorded interview. But in a phone call this week, she told NEPR that "things didn't seem right" on election day, and they "didn't add up."

So Mazzeo petitioned for a recount alleging "the number of absentee votes ... substantially exceeded the number of absentee ballots requested in any prior ... election for Mayor" and "unauthorized persons had access to the area" where ballots were stored. You can look at a PDF of the recount petition here.

But Pittsfield City Clerk Michele Benjamin said the ballots were secure.

"The absentee ballots are locked every day in a vault," Benjamin said. "There has been no unauthorized personnel in that vault."

Benjamin agreed the number of absentee ballots requested was greater than usual — about 250 more than the last mayoral race.

Benjamin said she explained to voters who wanted to vote early — as they had in state and federal elections — that voting absentee is the only way to vote early in a local election. And that's allowed only when a voter's religious beliefs, disability, or a trip out of town keeps someone from getting to the polls.

"A lot of people would then say, 'Oh, I'm not going to be here on election day,'" Benjamin said. "And they sign under the pains and penalty of perjury that they're not going to be here."

Benjamin said she has to believe voters when they sign the application.

For her part, Tyer said she won the election fair and square.

"I understand that Councilor Mazzeo is having a difficult time accepting the outcome of this election. But she's entitled to the recount," Tyer said.

Tyer said she will participate "vigorously" in the recount, meaning she plans to dispatch observers to watch the teams who will be counting the ballots.

But she said the allegations are damaging the city's ability to move ahead.

"This is just creating more divisiveness at a time when we should be building back bridges, preparing to work together in the best interests of the citizens of Pittsfield," she said.

A previous recount in Pittsfield for the mayoral race a decade ago was completed in one day.