PROVIDENCE — The Rhode Island Board of Elections on Thursday certified the results of the Nov. 7 special election that made Democrat Gabe Amo the first person of color to represent Rhode Island in Congress.
The board also rejected a request for a recount for the local ballot question in which Middletown voters approved a $190 million school construction bond item.
With a potential government shutdown looming, the US House of Representatives had asked Rhode Island officials to certify the results of the First Congressional District vote as soon as possible.
But the House didn’t wait for Rhode Island to act, and Amo was sworn in on the House floor on Monday night. US Representative Seth Magaziner, a fellow Rhode Island Democrat, asked for unanimous consent to allow Amo to take the oath, saying, “His certificate of election has not yet arrived, but there is no contest and no question has been raised with regard to his election.”
Amo, a Providence resident and former White House aide in the Obama and Biden administrations, received 64.7 percent of the votes, beating Republican Gerry W. Leonard Jr., a retired US Marine Corps colonel from Jamestown who received 35 percent.
The Board of Elections voted unanimously to certify the results of the First Congressional District special election, along with the state Senate District 1 race won by Jake Bissaillon, and 14 local referendums.
Middletown Concerned Neighbors had asked the board for a recount of the vote for the $190 million in Middletown school bonds. The ballot item passed by a vote of 2,067 to 1,942 (51.6 percent to 48.4 percent).
The board rejected the request, citing a law that allows recounts only in cases where there is a difference of less than 80 votes or 2 percentage points. In this case, the difference was 125 votes and 3.12 percentage points.
Staff members had told the board that Middletown Concerned Neighbors also lacked standing to request the recount because it had not spent more than $5,000 in opposing the bond item.
But board member Louis A. DeSimone Jr. said, “I am much more comfortable saying they did not meet a statutory requirement than saying they don’t meet the $5,000 requirement.” He said he is sure the group did not include “in-kind contributions” for the time they donated campaigning against the bond item, and they could probably meet the $5,000 requirement if they amended their reports.
Board member Randall A. Jackvony agreed, saying, “I would hate to tell the members of the Middletown Concerned (Neighbors) that, ‘Sorry, if you had only spent another $1,200.’ So I think that is something that we need to discuss as a board going forward. I would hate to say ‘On a technicality we can’t consider this,’ although the percentage obviously is a clear-cut item.”
So the board based its rejection on the fact that the vote was not close enough to qualify for a recount.
The board also received an update on the process of replacing Board of Elections executive director Robert B. Rapoza, who is retiring.
Board member David H. Sholes said a job posting will go up on websites at midnight Thursday and remain up through Dec. 16. A subcommittee will narrow the field of applicants to 10 or 12, schedule interviews for Jan. 11, and select finalists on Jan. 16. The full board will then interview the finalists on Feb. 1 and vote for Rapoza’s replacement on Feb. 6.
Board members noted that 2024 will be a presidential election year and that a special election will be needed to fill the Woonsocket mayor’s seat now that Lisa Baldelli-Hunt has announced she’ll resigned amid an investigation into a land deal she made with a former business associate.