Lynn Elections Chief Rowe Denies Mayoral Candidate Satterwhite’s Request for a Recount

Lynn City Clerk and Elections Chief Janet Rowe has denied mayoral candidate Michael Satterwhite’s request for a recount in the Sept. 14 preliminary mayoral election.

Satterwhite had finished in third place in the election with 2,286 votes. School Committee member Jared Nicholson took first place with 3,220 votes, while City Council President Darren Cyr was second with 2,593 votes, 307 votes ahead of Satterwhite. Nicholson and Cyr advanced to the final election on Nov. 2.

Rowe, in consultation with the City Solicitor’s office wrote a letter to Satterhwite explaining her reasons for denying the request.

Following is the text of Ms. Rowe’s Sept. 21 letter to Mr. Satterwhite:

Dear Mr. Satterwhite,

Yesterday you filed several recount petitions with the City Clerk’s office. When my office receives these forms, among other responsibilities, I have to determine whether they are in apparent conformity with law. For the reasons stated below, the petition forms that you submitted are not in apparent conformity with law, and therefore insufficient to trigger a recount.

State law requires, when petitioning for a recount, that the signature of at least one registered voter be notarized from each ward in which a recount is sought. G. L. c. 54, §135. I am informed that you personally completed the notarization portion of the filed recount petition forms yourself, in full view of my staff. You should be aware that notaries are prohibited by statute from notarizing any document in which the notary is named or has an interest, subject to limited exemptions not applicable here. G. L. c. 222, §16(a)(v). Moreover, my staff informed me that when you were notarizing signatures on the recount petitions, the voters whose signatures you were notarizing were not present in the Clerk’s office. G. L. c. 222, §16(a)(i). Such notarizations are not consistent with law. Thus, the petition forms on which the notarizations appear are not in apparent conformity with G. L, c. 54, §135, and cannot be counted.

Additionally, the recount petition forms were not timely filed. General Laws c.54, §135 requires that recount petition forms be received “on or before five o’clock post meridian on the sixth day following a primary or preliminary election”. My staff informs me that certain forms were not completed (as discussed above) and/or were completed and submitted at 5:05 PM.

Finally, the recount petitions indicate that concerns exist about provisional ballots not being counted and that certain absentee ballots were rejected (note that several of the recount petitions have no statement other than what the Secretary of the Commonwealth prints on the form). No other complaints were raised. Support for this position is also found in the Letter to the Editor on why a recount was requested. See General Laws c.54, §135 requires that a recount petition specify: wherein they deem such records or copies thereof to be in error, or that challenged votes were cast by persons not entitled to vote therein, and that they believe a recount of the ballots cast in such ward, precinct or town will affect the nomination or election of one or more candidates voted for at such primary, preliminarv election or election, specifying the office or will affect the decision of a question voted upon at such election, specifying the question …. [emphasis added].

Here, the election results for the three candidates receiving the highest number of votes are as follows:

3,220, 2593 and 2288. There were no absentee ballots rejected as defective in connection with this election. There were 40 early voting by mail ballots that were rejected as defective. There was only one provisional ballot.

No voter complaints were received by the City or the State before, during, and after the election concerning access to the polls. Even if the petition were valid and these issues were reviewed, adding 41 votes to the total of any one of the three candidates receiving the highest number of votes does not affect the outcome of the election.

In summary, the recount petition forms are not in apparent conformity with the law, were received untimely, and allege a limited number of issues that would not affect the outcome of the preliminary election. Accordingly, this is to inform you that the results of the preliminary election are final.

In reaching this decision I consulted with the City Solicitor’s Office; Michelle Tassinari, General Counsel, Election Division, Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth; and, Attorney Lauren F. Goldberg, Managing Attorney of K.P. Law, P.C., who is a former legal counsel to the Election Division of the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

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