Officials: Swapped envelopes led to bungled Fairhaven Board of Health election

At an emergency meeting of the Board of Registrars Friday afternoon, Town Clerk Eileen Lowney and Town Counsel Thomas Crotty explained that poll workers swapped the envelopes for “write-in” and “hand-count” ballots Monday night, resulting in 45 votes for the health board race being counted twice.

“I doubled up a lot of these people because the machine had already counted them,” Lowney said. “There were really only two ballots to hand-count in Precinct 1.”

When voters entered their ballots into the counting machine on Monday, one of three things happened:

If the ballot was readable, the machine tallied its votes and then put it in a compartment on its right side.

If the bubbled part of the ballot was readable, but there were write-ins, the bubbled votes were tallied and then the ballot was put in a compartment on the left side of the machine for the write-ins to be counted later.

If the machine spit out the ballot and could not read it, a poll worker put the ballot in a slot in the machine where it sat in a third compartment waiting to be hand-counted.

After the polls closed, poll workers were supposed to put the write-in ballots and the hand-count ballots in envelopes labeled respectively. That’s what happened at five of the six Fairhaven precincts, but workers at Precinct 1’s polling station swapped the envelopes, officials said. So instead of counting two hand-count ballots from Precinct 1, Lowney counted 45.

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