NEW BEDFORD - With all incumbents re-elected earlier this month in New Bedford's final elections, the Election Commission held a recount on Monday night for the Ward Four City Council race in the Ashley Room of City Hall.

The recount saw a difference of only two votes from the original count taken at the election. The Election Committee counted 1,166 votes in incumbent Dana Rebeiro's favor over defeated candidate Joseph “Jo Jo” Fortes' 1,120, reducing Rebeiro's margin of victory from 48 to 46 votes.

Fortes petitioned for the recount on November 17th, saying that “a number of voters in the ward” had come to him requesting a recount take place. Following the recount on Monday, Fortes also listed “concerns” brought to his attention by elected officials as motivation for petitioning the recall.

“One, the voters. People who work for me had some concerns. Also, there were concerns that a couple elected officials had talked to me about, and there were some issues that we had,” Fortes said. “We don't want to sound like sour grapes, but this is part of the process.”

With the recount confirming her re-election to City Council, Rebeiro says she thanks all those involved in the recount and that she feels saddened about the “very negative campaign” for Ward Four.

“The results are the results, I thank everyone that came and helped me oversee the count,” Rebeiro said. “So I think moving forward this city needs to remember to come together, to stay together, because we've got some challenging times with the President's tax bill and what his plans are.”

Fortes has also petitioned for recounts in previous elections. Following an election loss in 2005, he lost the Ward 4 race to Viola Pina by nine votes, and then by two votes in the recount. Fortes lost by 15 votes to Bruce Duarte, Jr. in 2007 and petitioned for another recount, yielding the same results. He also petitioned for a recount after a 1993 loss to Ramona Silva by 34 votes.

Led by Election Commissioner Manny DeBrito, it took about two hours for the ward's 2,290 ballots to be recounted by hand, with an estimated cost to the city of about $6,000. Rebeiro and Fortes were permitted to bring an additional person into the room to potentially challenge ballots. The candidates' legal counsel, City Solicitor, and members of the Election Committee also filled the room.

“It just shows how accurate the system is and how good it is. The numbers were pretty much right-on and that's just a credit to all the poll workers that the system is running very accurately. It was great to see that the system does work,” DeBrito said. “I thank them both (Rebeiro and Fortes) for their time and everybody inside. Again, they were able to see that things do run smoothly and that the office is set up to run smoothly, and that people put a lot of time and effort in to make sure that it does.”

DeBrito explained that the focus of the recount was to best determine what the voter was attempting to do on the ballot.

“it was about making the best estimate or best decision as to what the voter was trying to do, so you look at patterns, you look at if the vote is in one person's favor more than the others,” DeBrito explained. “Was it above the line or below the line? So it becomes a judgement call.”

A minor delay during became enough reason to give DeBrito a massive scare. Officials working the recount noticed that 473 ballots were missing from the original 2,290 count taken on election-day. They represented votes from staff at Carney Academy, located on Elm Street, and were found in a blue bag inside a vault located in the basement of City Hall, where the rest of the ballots and other Election Commission supplies were stored. It turns out one of the officials who worked on election night placed the ballots in the incorrect colored bag, leading to them being briefly misplaced.

“Thankfully I didn't have a full heart attack and I figured out where those extra ballots were. It was scary two-seconds for me and I think I aged like 10 to 12 years in just that one moment, so I'm happy we were able to clear that up,” DeBrito said.


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