City officials said Wednesday that it could take days to officially tally the results of this week’s City Council election — and declare the winner of the council’s fourth at-large seat — as one candidate claimed victory and another, only 10 votes down, called for a citywide recount.
Julia Mejia, a political newcomer, placed fourth according to the first-pass count of Tuesday’s race, while Alejandra St. Guillen, a community advocate, was so close she shared the same percentage of the vote, 11.18 percent.
On Wednesday, St. Guillen called for a citywide recount once the final tally is in. That will include provisional ballots — ones cast by people who show up at the polling place but aren’t on the voter list, for example. She said a recount will be the only way to make sure all votes are counted in a race that is so close.
“Every single community in the city of Boston deserves to be counted, and so we are fully prepared for a full citywide recount,” St. Guillen said at a news conference at her Roxbury campaign headquarters, flanked by supporters.
“I’m optimistic we are embarking in a system that is going to show what the voters wanted. Our elections, being fair and transparent, are the bedrock of our democracy, so, whatever the effect, I trust that the voters will have their voices heard.”
Mejia, meanwhile, claimed victory, though she said later Wednesday that a recount could serve as a teaching moment for the electorate that “every vote counts.”
“This is such an amazing opportunity for us; this is a teaching moment for folks to understand how important their voice is,” she said, adding she would be open to a recount: “I’m ready, willing, and able to uphold the process and participate actively as needed,” she said.
Regardless, she said, she committed long ago “to build black and brown political power in low-income neighborhoods,” and so she was looking for closure.
“We’ve won because we’ve done that,” she said.
City officials said Wednesday that they were still researching the recount process, though any such effort would likely not begin until all votes are officially counted. That includes counting provisional ballots, which had not all been reviewed by Wednesday.
“The numbers are unofficial, and they all could change,” said Secretary of State William F. Galvin, whose office oversees elections and had been guiding city officials through the process.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty in the final numbers,” he said.
Any of the eight at-large candidates could initiate a recall process in any of the city’s 22 wards, with the collection of 50 signatures from registered voters in that ward. To conduct a full citywide recount, a petitioner would need 50 signatures from all 22 wards.
Any recount petition would have to be filed within 10 days, by next Friday, and the city cannot certify the results of the election pending a recount.
Regardless of who initiates the recount, any of the eight candidates may participate, such as by observing the count, because it could affect their final vote tally.
In the case of a citywide recount, Galvin said, officials would have to review — possibly by hand — all of the at-large votes on each of the 66,000-plus ballots: A voter could have picked up to four candidates, filling in bubbles with a pen.
“The logistics of it are going to be very challenging,” he said.
The unresolved finish added an asterisk to a historic election in Boston, in which voters elected the most diverse slate of councilors, with a first-time majority of women on the panel.
Councilor Michelle Wu topped the ticket for one of the council’s four at-large seats for the third consecutive time, winning support from 62 percent of the 66,884 voters who cast a ballot. She was a flag-bearer for a politically progressive movement in the city that also saw the election of three new similarly minded district councilors.
Incumbent Councilors Annissa Essaibi-George and Michael Flaherty placed second and third, respectively, for an at-large seat, unofficial results showed.
Voters also elected three new district councilors to fill vacancies: Ricardo Arroyo, a public defender, in District 5, based in Hyde Park; Kenzie Bok, a housing activist, in District 8, centered in the Back Bay; and Liz Breadon, a community activist, in District 9, which covers Allston and Brighton.
Leading into Tuesday’s election, the race for the fourth at-large seat remained open to any of the remaining five candidates who had survived the preliminary election.
St. Guillen built an alliance with Wu and shared campaign headquarters with her. Throughout the campaign, St. Guillen had cited her career in public service, as a school teacher and later as an immigrant-rights advocate, to connect with voters.
Mejia cited her community activism as well, and her upbringing as an immigrant, saying she could give a voice to residents who feel their voices too often go unheard.
Both candidates were looking to become the first Latina in the council’s history.
St. Guillen said Wednesday, “Voters in Boston were in a very lucky position to choose from a diverse and amazingly talented pool of candidates. I was proud to be part of that pool of candidates.”
St. Guillen said she and Mejia, along with other candidates, shared a similar platform. But, she argued, the call for a recount was not about any particular candidate.
“At the end of the day, the recount is about voter protection, and it’s about making sure all communities, particularly communities of color, are counted,” she said. “It’s not about me or her, it’s about our democracy.”
St. Guillen said her campaign was still researching the process for a recount and was assembling a legal team.