An apparent counting error by local election workers delivered a stunning, primary recount victory for Nashua Ward 8 Democrat Latha Mangipudi on Monday.
Last Tuesday, former Aldermanic President Carl Andrade had scored a narrow, three-point win over Mangipudi for the right to face former House Majority Leader Peter Silva, R-Nashua, in a special election this fall.
That primary outcome was Andrade with 170 votes to 167 for Mangipudi.
But after the one-hour recount in Secretary of State Bill Gardner’s office, Mangipudi came out the winner with 191 votes to 146 for Andrade.
“This proves to me once again that democracy works, the process works, and I think it’s wonderful that both Carl and I ran an energizing, positive campaign. I really thank him for that,” Mangipudi said.
Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said upon opening the box of ballots on Monday, it became clear local election workers had sorted the ballots into two stacks while they were counting, one with votes for Andrade and the other votes for Mangipudi.
The problem was during the recount state officials found one bundle of votes put into the “Andrade” stack were votes for Mangipudi.
They were bundled in packs of 25 votes each.
“Once I saw that, I could only hope that one of my stacks of votes had been put into her pile but no such luck,” Andrade said.
The recount confirmed a 24-vote change from one candidate to the other, as the same misplaced bundle contained a single write-in vote for Silva.
“It was pretty straightforward once we started going through them that this became a counting error on the night of the primary,” said Deputy Secretary of State Scanlan.
Andrade said both candidates realized a simple mistake had occurred and accepted the outcome.
“There was no question about the intent of every voter’s ballot. What happened here was a bundle of ballots got put in the wrong pile,” Andrade said.
Mangipudi faces Silva Nov. 5, the same day voters will decide municipal offices. The winner will succeed Democratic state Rep. Roland LaPlante, who resigned in February because of health issues.
“I am obviously glad I asked for the recount because it was human error,” Mangipudi said. “Otherwise, we would never had known this happened.”
Andrade was an experienced figure in city politics, serving on the city’s aldermanic board for numerous terms and running twice for mayor.
Mangipudi served on the Nashua Board of Education more than a decade ago though she also worked in 2005-06 to form a state political action committee focused on US-India relations.
“We both committed to support the other whoever won the primary,” Andrade said. “Latha and her family worked very hard in this campaign will make a great addition to the House from Nashua.
“It was gratifying to see Latha attracted a lot of new voters who don’t typically show up in an election like this. I think that’s great for the future health of the Democratic Party at the local level.”
Mangipudi said through this contest, the two candidates got to know each other very well.
“This became a real friendly competition between us,” she said. “I knocked on 800 doors in the ward, and I think we both were surprised that more than 500 in total showed up to vote.”
Roughly 525, or just under 9 percent, of Ward 8’s 5,981 registered voters turned out Tuesday.
Initially, Mangipudi said she probably wouldn’t bother with a recount since the turnout was so small and election workers had totaled up the ballots three times. She eventually asked for a recount and paid a $10 fee.
“I wasn’t surprised when she decided to seek the recount,” Andrade said. “When it’s that close, your supporters are always going to encourage you to make extra sure.”
State Rep. Ken Gidge, D-Nashua, was among more than 20 friends and supporters of both candidates who turned out to watch the recount.
“This shows you once again why in any close race like this one, you always want to see the ballots,” Gidge said. “It’s hard to believe there could be a swing of 24 votes, but mistakes happen.”
Andrade said these paper ballots were folded over by local election workers and a rubber band was stretched over each bundle.
“It looked like they counted them three times to make sure each stack contained 25 ballots but they must never have unfolded the bundles to make sure that my votes were all in one pile and hers were all in the other,” Andrade said. “You would think they would have looked in and checked to make sure what they were counting.”
Source: Nashua Telegraph