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Yes, every vote counts: Mejia wins council seat by one vote

WGBH reports a recount showed that Julia Mejia won the fourth at-large seat on the city council by just one vote over Alejandra St. Guillen.

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The Board of Election voted to allow one ballot that had previously been rejected and not to allow another one. It is not clear which, if either, candidate those ballots favored.

The best way to have settled this is another run-off election.

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This is the point where I mention that I wasn't going to vote for her until meeting her late in the campaign, so I did. Yes, every vote counts.

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We've voted in every election since forever, large, small and in between. We had plans to be out of town, but figured since Boston now has early voting, we would vote before leaving at city hall as we did last year. Lo and behold, we learned like the Thursday before the election that early voting is only for "big" elections so we figured we would vote absentee by grabbing a ballot at city hall. Then the online info for absentee ballots said they need to be mailed to you in advance and some other whole process to get them submitted etc. So, for the first time ever that I can remember, we passed on voting, but not by choice. Not sure who my final choice would have been, but I think we need a do over or a runoff for this last spot. Granted, it's city council, so mostly just meaningless fights over whether satanists should say the opening prayer anyway.

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While it's true there was no "early voting" this year You could have still voted absentee. You indicated your willingness to go to City Hall like last year. If you show up in person at City Hall and show ID, they will give you an absentee ballot on the spot. You can then sit at the table provided for the purpose, fill out the ballot, seal it up in the envelopes provided and deposit it into a ballot box. Done. Plus, you can do this at your leisure any time the Elections Department office is open, not on some early voting schedule.

Absentee voting is not the same as early voting, but if you meet the criteria for an absentee ballot it will work for you.

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Stevil says

the online info for absentee ballots said they need to be mailed to you in advance and some other whole process to get them submitted

Markk says

show up in person at City Hall and show ID, they will give you an absentee ballot on the spot. You can then sit at the table provided for the purpose, fill out the ballot, seal it up in the envelopes provided and deposit it into a ballot box

Which is correct?

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But the city's website focuses on the mail to, mail in method. I did mail in. Here's something from the city election office that verifies that in person is fine too.

https://www.boston.gov/sites/default/files/embed/a/absentee_voting_infor...

Can I vote by absentee ballot in person?
Yes. You can apply and vote at the same time two to three weeks before an Election. Call
your Election Office ahead of time to make certain that the absentee ballots are available.
Please remember that you must meet one of the requirements listed above for absentee
voting.

How do I vote by absentee ballot?
You can either have an absentee ballot mailed to you, or you can arrange with your local
Election Office to vote in their office. The deadline for applying for an absentee ballot is noon
of the day before the Election. If the Monday before an Election falls on a holiday, the deadline
to apply for an absentee ballot will be 5 pm on the preceding business day. The same deadline
applies for those voters wishing to vote in person in the Election Office. Please note that this
holiday-deadline scenario is highly unusual, and would probably only occur during Special
Elections.

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Mobile v. web

My wife and I both did the search on our phones and it says "By Mail" and then gives the whole explanation above.

I just looked at the website on my computer and there is indeed an "In Person" tab. Unfortunately, if you look at it on your phone - that tab doesn't come up on the first pass. You need to click on the arrow next to the "By Mail" and THEN the "In Person" option comes up, but from the formatting, you would think the arrow would give you options for "By Mail".

I guess we could have called too - but we assumed the info on the website was correct and didn't see the "Tab 2".

Again, I was still pretty undecided so not sure for whom I would have voted. Could have swung it.

The city should improve the mobile website and clearly have the "By Mail" and "In Person" tabs listed on the Mobile first page of absentee ballot instructions. Any current or future City Councilors reading this???!!!

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You, clearly a low information voter, have been screened out!

(I am kidding.)

Interesting that you assume your wife would have voted the same as you and not offset your vote. Patriarchy much?

(still kidding)

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We do try to coordinate our votes - but we occasionally wash each other out.

Most candidates probably don't want my vote. My preferences usually lose. :-)~

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Had some other biz at city hall and arrived early so I decided to go to the election department and share my concern. A young woman came to the desk and I showed her the problem with the website. She said the elections department website was not the job of the elections department. Before my head exploded I asked who was responsible for this then. She referred me to some tech group on the 8th floor which apparently doesn't exist or was on another floor. Then my head exploded and after picking up the pieces I went on my way to my other meeting which went much better.

File under "not my job".

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Preliminary city council. I went down to city hall a few weeks ahead, noted that I would be out of town. Filled out a form, was given a ballot, filled out ballot, and passed it back to them (there were signatures and envelopes involved, the exact details I cannot remember since it was probably 12 years ago.) The key was that it was all done on site.

In short, it wasn't hard then, so it shouldn't be hard now, as long as you can get to City Hall.

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In 1839, Marcus “Landslide” Morton was elected governor of Massachusetts by one vote. Of the 102,066 votes cast by the good people of our state, he received exactly 51,034. Had his count been 51,033, the election would have been thrown into the Legislature, where he probably would not have won.

“Landslide” also made the record books in 1842 when he won the same office again by one vote, this time in the Legislature. (In those days, Massachusetts governors were elected for terms of one year.)

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Two times in 200 years... a phenomenon.

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Almost the same situation, too: Bill White and Bruce Desmond were nearly tied for the fourth and final at-large seat on what was then still called the Board of Aldermen. There was a recount, and then a court case, where the judge declared White elected by a single vote. (I voted for White.)

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I was going to vote for Erin Murphy, but she came out against the road diet.

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The final tally was announced...after lawyers for both candidates made final arguments over a handful of contested ballots...

The Board of Election voted to allow one ballot that had previously been rejected and not to allow another one. It is not clear which, if either, candidate those ballots favored.

I want to know about all the ballots that were rejected. I want to know why a last minute argument by one of their lawyers would sway the decision on a ballot. How did they handle people who voted for 5 people? (Presumably their entire ballot was tossed.) Maybe this only engrosses me because I work in data collection, but the details of who didn't get included and why is the part of the story that I would really like to hear more about.

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This article has a great summary of how this worked for the Minnesota Senate election a decade ago - I would imagine the Boston recount process is pretty similar. (and "Lizard People" is an all-time classic vote)

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I was a recount attorney and observer. Ballots with more than 4 votes are overvotes and recorded as 4 blanks. Unfortunately, the current infrastructure does not capture ballot level data (it keeps totals, but not exactly which combinations were registered). The only ballots that were actually argued by the lawyers were truly close calls and voted on by the board of elections. While it's hard to completely eliminate human error, the city did an admirable job and made every effort to be exceedingly fair to both candidates and campaigns.

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I volunteered for the recount and it was a great experience. I learned a lot and I got to spend a lot of time with excellent and engaged Bostonians. I'm grateful that I took the opportunity.
Both campaigns were actively calling for more help all weekend and Monday, so I'm sorry that you missed out.

5 votes on the At-Large race is an overvote and is recorded as 4 blanks. The guiding principle is the will of the voter. For example, it gets iffy if three votes are filled in as nice ovals and one just has a little dot. When this sort of thing happens, the lawyers (campaign and city) take that ballot away and argue over it. The Herald had a great photo of this on Saturday.

I came away wondering what the machines read because there isn't any indication of how they interpreted a vote at the recount. For example if there is a ballot with four votes, but the voter has also filled the bubble for write-in, but then didn't write anything in the space. This is something for the lawyers, but I bet the machine would see that as an overcount and the tally might change. Same with very faint marks from dry pens.

I will be extremely tidy with my ballots from now on and will draw perfect little black ovals. Even though I already always vote, I will be more careful with my choices.

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See how difficult it is to recount one city election? Even though it is flawed, we will always need the electoral college for Presidential elections because you cannot recount the entire nation. It simply cannot be done. (When we had to recount just Florida, it STILL ended up with the Supreme Court.)

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Or change how we vote so that we get to rank order our choices.

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Even though it is flawed, we will always need the electoral college for Presidential elections because you cannot recount the entire nation.

One wonders how the rest of the world does it.

Please read a book.

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NOT.

I laid out my position with historical evidence and you A) insulted me for no reason and B) Provided zero information to indicate why you think you're right.

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First, its not impossible to recount a whole country's votes. By that logic, you shouldn't be able to.even hold any nationwide elections in the first place because gershdernit there are just too many people!

As for Florida, I'd wager that corruption played a greater role than sheer numbers.

Also, the Electoral College has nothing to do with making counting or recounting easier. You need an accurate count in the first place to award EC votes, so..

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Let's say the Presidential election was held and "A" beats "B" by ~5,000 votes. That's close enough that you'd want to recount. If you get rid of the electoral college, then every single vote in every small town (and big city) must be recounted. Talk about the opportunity for fraud! There will never-ending questions about where the ballots were stored and how they were counted. Even in Florida, there were protests outside of election offices, demanding to see the ballots and claiming that the process was unfair to their candidate.

Is it physically possible to do a national recount? Yes. Is it political and logistically possible to do it and have the nation and the world feel like the results are just and honest? No way.

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My point is, you're never going to have A beat B by 5,000 votes. I'd say it's almost impossible for there to be a presidential election where the popular vote margin is less than 100,000 votes. The closest "modern" election, 1960, had a margin of just over that, and that was with just over half as many total votes as in 2016. So you're worried about a problem that only occurs in the system you think we need to keep.

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I accept your logic that no presidential election has ever been that close. But suppose that in the future an election IS that close? What then?

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Then I would agree that a nation-wide recount is untenable, and the states that join the NPVIC should probably have laws that give a (very tiny) threshold at which they fall back to the EC as it stands now.

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Take your weird fetish for the Electoral College elsewhere. It has zero to do with preventing fraud, there is no relationship and I have the feeling you're not too clear on election logistics as a whole.

The scenario you're positing would be addressed by looking at precinct-level results first. Those with close results would be candidates for recounts, not the whole country at once. Just because the EC wouldn't exist would not also magically make lower-level districts disappear.

As has already been mentioned there is a whole planet full of developed nations that use direct national elections and many that even enjoy better government and public policy outcomes than we do!

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I don't understand why, in a zazor-thin national election, you would only need to recount precincts where the results are close. If there are 100 locations around the country where the original vote is off by 100 votes (a very possible occurrence), and those 100 locations are in precincts where the vote is not particularly close, you would miss 10,000 wrong votes if you only recount in close precincts. Right?

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The only reason we ever need to do a recount in the Presidential election is because it's done state by state. If it were just done by national popular vote, the margins would be way too high to bother. Like, the closest popular vote margin ever was in 1880 at 0.09%. At 2016 vote totals, that would be well over 100,000 votes, way more than would be worth doing a recount over.

In 2000, the popular vote margin was ~500,000 votes, close but clearly "won" by Gore. The margin in Florida of 0.0092% is totally irrelevant to the popular vote total with a margin of ~0.5% nation-wide.

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Jethro, you have made a valid and interesting point. I'm not sure I agree, but I appreciate your thoughtful take on this.

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I cast a “bullet” vote for Althea Garrison. I’m glad my non vote for the others made a difference.

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And I’m glad Althea lost. She is a nut job Trumper.

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Ward 20?

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Magoo voted for Magoo’s self. Magoo.

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Sounds like something you would do. Oh yehs.
You obviously had your glasses on when you did that. Have you ever forgotten your glasses while voting?

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Please.

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Lost in this amazing finish is that St. Guillen was the candidate of the Boston progressive political establishment: endorsed by Marty Walsh AND Michelle Wu, most of the big unions, and the Globe. Conventional thinking for a while was that St. Guillen would walk away with this thing. Wu even shared her campaign office and resources with her. But Mejia outworked St. Guillen at every turn. Kudos to her and her campaign. Mejia does not have the best reputation in some circles, particularly with education advocates, so I hope she does a lot of listening and evolves into an effective councilor for everyone now.

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Mejia has a much better rep with education advocates than St. Guillen. Mejia has come a long way since her yes on 2 vote and has realized that most charter schools are not good for public education. St. Guillen on the other hand has not come as far and still accepts money from pro-charter folks.

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won by ten votes. And the results of the recount had the winner winning by only a single vote.

Something is clearly not right here.

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A machine count throws out ballots that were filled out wrong. It has Mejia at +10, likely including absentee ballots. Humans then look at the rejected votes and try to discern voter intent.

A little ruling is made by election officials over disputed ballots after hearing from both campaign attorneys. They argue over whether each provisional ballot should be counted or not, too. Seems fair to me.

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Those aren't usually included in the election night total.

Plus, we know any election of large numbers will have some errors in counting or math or recording. Generally, the winner's margin is too big for those to matter.

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so this result stands as final.

WBUR report

MassLive report

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vs. the hate monger that got in last time. With Erin Murphy as an additional buffer if two people vacate seats.

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St. Guillen also knows she's the clear frontrunner to fill the At-Large seat that Wu is going to vacate when she runs for mayor in 2021. Smart decision on her end here.

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If she challenged this recount she would challenging the votes of people bubbled in Mejia and wrote in Mejia. Technically this is grounds for tossing a ballot, but the voter intent is absolutely clear and only a mean-hearted politician would want to disenfranchise voters by asking that their votes be revoked. In short, if she did challenge, it's just not a good look.

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I voted for both of them, so I'm just glad it's settled.

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In short, if she did challenge, it's just not a good look.

I agree it's not a good look to keep appealing forever but people have short memories and St. Guillen may never have as good a chance as she does today. She should find a friendly judge and go to that court.

This reminds me of the 1996 Democrat primary race for the 10th MA Congressional District. On election night, Phil Johnston went to bed a winner by a comfortable 175 votes. Election night loser Bill Delahunt found a friendly judge who discovered enough votes to change the results two weeks later. A little bit of grumbling in the first few days after the ruling but rarely if ever mentioned during Delahunt's career in Congress. I wish both Mejia and St. Guillen could lose but recommend the latter fight til the end, nobody will remember either way. Of course, there remains the possibility that Marty's crowd has already swooped in to offer a job better than the Council to St. Guillen. For someone who lost by one vote, she seems quite content.

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You 'wish they could both lose' - is that because they're women or because they're Latinas? Do you have some kind of run off system for your various hates?

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The ancient Athenians, who (I believe) invented the idea of elections on a mass scale (i.e. above the village level) -- had a simple system. The voters dropped little pebbles into jars to cast their votes. Perhaps we should try that? If the pebbles were all uniform (possible with today's technology), we wouldn't even have to count the pebbles -- we could just weigh the jars. In fact, if done on a Mass. scale, a recount might be a jarring event!

OK, I'll show myself out...

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The winner of that vote was banished from Athens for ten years.

Time to reinstate that, too?

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