Vote difference in Boston City Council at-large race shrinks to 5 as recount looms

The change in the vote tally adds to the drama of a close finish that is bound for a vote recount, at the request of candidates Julia Mejia (left) and Alejandra St. Guillen.
The change in the vote tally adds to the drama of a close finish that is bound for a vote recount, at the request of candidates Julia Mejia (left) and Alejandra St. Guillen.JONATHAN WIGGS AND MATTHEW J. LEE/GLOBE STAFF

The 10-vote difference in the race for the fourth and final Boston City Council at-large seat has now shrunk to five, although city officials said they’re still counting.

Eneida Tavares, chairwoman of the Board of Election Commissioners, alerted candidates Julia Mejia and Alejandra St. Guillen about the new tally Wednesday afternoon. Tavares said the latest count showed Mejia still ahead after the inclusion of ballots that were hand-counted at 34 precincts on election night but inadvertently omitted from the unofficial tally the city publicized later that night.

The final results could still change, as the city has a deadline of 5 p.m. Friday to count all absentee ballots sent from overseas, military ballots, and provisional ballots. It’s not clear how many ballots would fall into those categories.


But the change in the vote tally adds to the drama of a close finish that is bound for a vote recount, at the request of St. Guillen and Mejia. The deadline for filing for a vote recount is also 5 p.m. Friday; a recount would extend the deadline for the city to certify the vote.

“This is our democracy and every vote must be counted, including those votes that have not yet been received,” Jessica Bahena, St. Guillen’s campaign manager, said in a statement. “We are full speed ahead with our recount efforts, and are deeply thankful for the 80 volunteers who have mobilized across the city to ensure we reach the November 15 deadline for signatures to initiate the recount.”

The fourth-place finisher will join incumbents Michelle Wu, Annissa Essaibi-George, and Michael Flaherty, who took the top three spots by comfortable margins.

It remains an open race for fourth place. Here’s what happens next:

How does a recount occur?

Any candidate can petition for a recount of any of the city’s voting wards, with the collection of 50 voter signatures from that respective ward. If a petitioner wants a citywide recount, he or she must collect 50 signatures in each of the city’s 22 wards. Mejia and St. Guillen have said they will seek citywide recounts, and the city cannot certify election results until that process is completed. Any petition for a ward recount must be filed by 5 p.m. Friday. The process will not begin until a recount is filed.


Will the recount occur for all elections?

Any recount will be for that particular election only, meaning a petition for a recount of the at-large votes will not affect the outcomes of the council district races. However, the recount will examine the total votes cast for all of the eight candidates in the at-large race, as well as any write-in candidates. So any of the candidates, including those who placed sixth through eighth, may observe the proceedings.

How long will it take?

That depends on how many wards are recounted and whether the candidates ask that the votes be recounted by hand or by machine. It could take weeks. If the recount is done by hand, officials must personally review each vote — there can be up to four for the at-large race — on each of the 66,884-plus ballots that were cast. The city elections division has been in communication with Secretary of State William Galvin’s office, which oversees elections, to determine the proper process and protocols.

What are the candidates saying?

On election night, St. Guillen, an immigrant rights advocate and former school teacher, had conceded to Mejia under the belief that she had been down by about 200 votes. Hours later, however, once an unofficial tally of all precincts showed they were 10 votes apart, St. Guillen announced her intention to seek a citywide recount, saying the race was too close; she said voters should be confident that their votes were properly counted.


Mejia, a community activist who emigrated from the Dominican Republic, initially claimed victory. She later agreed to pursue a recount, however, noting the uncertainty of the race. She said the recount could serve as an learning process for city residents, that each one of their votes matters.

Both candidates are seeking to be the first Latina elected to the council.

Mejia sent out a message to voters thanking them for their support, and inviting them to help out in the effort through serving as recount observers or donating to cover legal expenses.

She tweeted, “Our messaging throughout this campaign has been to amplify voices that aren’t heard and feel left out of government processes. This recount is crucial in making sure that every voice and #EveryVoteMatters. Now is the time to make that happen! #bospoli”

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at milton.valencia@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.