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Mazzeo Campaign Suggests Vote Tampering In Pittsfield Recount Request

City of Pittsfield
A section of the Mazzeo campaign's request for a recount of the mayoral election results in Pittsfield's Ward 1

The losing candidate in Pittsfield’s mayoral election nearly two weeks ago is now asking for a recount.

On the night of November 5th, a hard fought mayoral election came down to a nail-biting finish with first-term incumbent Linda Tyer besting at-large city councilor Melissa Mazzeo by around 530 votes.

“I just received a call from Councilor Mazzeo, who graciously conceded," Tyer told supporters that night. "And what I said to the councilor was, you fought a good race. You sharpened our team, you sharpened our vision, you made us work hard, and you’re going to be congratulated for that. And I heard you and I heard your supporters, and we know that there’s more work to do. So there we go, we’re onward.”

Not so fast.

“Currently we are processing the recount petitions," said City Clerk Michele Benjamin. "They will be certified and I will notify both Melissa Mazzeo and Linda Tyer that we have enough signatures for a recount.”

Paperwork filed by the Mazzeo campaign on November 15th will initiate a full recount of the votes cast on election day.

“The recount petition papers themselves have 15 available spaces for signatures and you need 10 signatures certified from each and precinct throughout the city," said Benjamin. "And I believe she will have that.”

It’s the city’s first recount of a mayoral election since 2009, when Dan Bianchi’s petition to reexamine the counts in his campaign against incumbent James Ruberto yielded six additional votes. Ruberto won by just over 200.

Mazzeo’s Ward 1 written request for a recount, filed with the city, provides her campaign’s explanation for the recount. According to the statement, “there is ample reason to believe that unauthorized persons had access to the area in the office of the city clerk and registrar of voter’s office where ballots were stored and maintained.” It goes on to contend “the number of absentee ballots requested and submitted for count in this precinct and throughout the city substantially exceeded the number of absentee ballots requested in any prior city-wide election for Mayor.”

Mazzeo canceled an interview with WAMC on Monday, saying she wished to confer more with her lawyers before making a statement.

“It’s obvious that Councilor Mazzeo is having a difficult time accepting the outcome of this election and she is certainly entitled to a recount," said Tyer. “However, I have 100% confidence in the city’s elections procedures and I am also confident that the election results will not change. And quite frankly, Josh, I won this election fair and square.”

The recount date – and how much the effort will cost the city – have not yet been established.

“I’ve got to reach out to several different of the board of registrars, I have to hire election workers who will count the ballots," said Benjamin. "Basically, they will be broken down into blocks of 50, and then they will go over to a tally table where one person will read the ballot and another person will record it.”

Observers from both campaigns will be present during the recount. Questions about individual ballots will be resolved by the board of registrars.

Benjamin says the city has also recounted a pair of ward contests in the years since the full 2009 citywide recount. Those tallies didn’t change the election outcome. The clerk says she expects the recount to begin next week, once election workers are hired again.

“It takes a while to count these ballots into blocks of 50, and we have 12,000 of them, so I’ll have several teams counting the ballots and then I would like to have six or seven tallying teams,” the city clerk told WAMC.

The next four-year mayoral term starts in January.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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