John Wells

WELLS RETAINS FOUR-YEAR TERM ON SCHOOL COMMITTEE - School Committee members John Wells (left) and Patricia Chisholm (right) were on hand this morning at City Hall as one vote (mailed from overseas) remained to be opened and only one vote separated the two candidates for the second of two four-year terms on the school board. Wells held a one vote lead going into Monday morning and it stayed that way as the one vote was deemded not to be valid. Wells gets the four-year term and Chisholm earns a two-year term. (joebrownphotos.com)

WOBURN - The city’s election from Tuesday, November 5, continued this morning with a recount - or more accurately a “recanvass” procedure at the City Clerk’s office.

After a count of the votes from the general election, there was one separating School Committee members John Wells over Patricia Chisholm for a four-year term.

The special meeting and the one vote issue was settled on Monday morning as the City Clerk William Campbell unsealed a single overseas ballot that was basically deemed invalid. So, it’s a one-vote edge by Wells who gets the first four-year term.

"The election is final," said City Clerk William Campbell after the gathering this morning.

The vote opened this morning was not a valid absentee ballot for the general election, it was explained.

He also noted that last Friday was the last day for candidates to file for a recount and none were. "It's done," said Campbell.

Wells enjoyed a one-vote victory but the previously “unsealed ballot” involving two votes for School Committee could have changed things dramatically. But now it’s settled: Dr. Wells gets it.The ballot was invalid. Wells' original four-vote margin of victory over third-place School Committee finisher Chisholm had shrank down to a one-ballot lead after a complicated recount.

Campbell — as required by state election laws — unsealed the single overseas ballot cast in the Nov. 5 municipal election.

Both incumbents easily won enough votes to recapture their seats on the boards. However, under the City Charter, the top two School Committee performers in Woburn's biennial elections earn a four-year term.

The top vote getter was Ellen Crowley who got one of the two 4-year terms.

If the overseas Woburnite backed the candidacy of Chisholm but not Wells — each voter could pick as many as five of seven School Committee hopefuls — this year's municipal election would have featured the city's first-ever tie but that did not happen.

Adding yet another unexpected wrinkle to the whole drama, the city clerk, after referring to the City Charter to be prepared for such a scenario, had discovered Woburn's founders never included a way to formally break such a stalemate.

When Wells left City Hall on election night, he enjoyed a slim five-vote lead over Chisholm for the second place finish for the four-year term, but that margin-of-victory was later brought down to four ballots.

However, late into the night, as election workers labored to count write-in ballots, a seasoned staffer realized a mistake had been made.

Specifically, the city clerk learned a handful of ballots, meant to be secured inside a voting machine, had instead been fed twice through a machine.

The mix-up apparently happened as workers were also tallying ballots with write-in candidates. Write-in ballots are routinely counted at the end of the night, as they are rarely submitted in great enough numbers to change an election outcome.

After explaining the scenario to state election officials, the city clerk's office subsequently petitioned a judge to allow another tally of ballots in the ward. Known as a "recanvass", the new tally differs from a "recount", which is an election result review that can only be initiated by a candidate for office.

During his 18-year tenure on the school board, Wells has never won a four-year term in office before this year.

Chisholm, however, had twice earned that distinction.

The two shook hands after Monday's brief event.

Both are veteran members of the School Committee.

(Reporter Pat Blais contributed to this report.)

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