Hearing on Possible School Election Runoff Set for 2 p.m. Tuesday

Attorneys for both Cwerner and Shah scheduled to go before state Superior Court in Somerville, Cwerner's attorney said.

An attorney for former school board member Bev Cwerner, who has mounted a court challenge to the disqualification of two votes and is seeking a special runoff election with new board member Priti Shah, said attorneys for both candidates will argue the issue at 2 p.m. in state Superior Court in Somerville.

The case, which will be open to the public, had been scheduled for 9 a.m. but an attorney representing Shah, Linda Warshaw, had requested that the time be moved to 2 p.m., said Kevin Orr, Cwerner's attorney. Judge Yolanda Ciccone had agreed to the later time, Orr said in an email on Monday afternoon.

Cwerner, an incumbent who had served on the board for three years, contends that the county erroneously disqualified two absentee votes that had been properly signed by voters.

If those votes are added to the count, the result would be a tie, and a special runoff election is required before June 27, Orr said late in May.

Nine candidates on April 27 sought election to three available seats available on the Board of Education for terms starting in May. Incumbent Susan McGowan and candidate Linda Wooldridge were decisively elected that night, along with approval for the proposed 2011-12 school budget tax levy.

Cwerner but at that time school officials cautioned the result was too close to decide. The county Board of Election also is responsible for certifying election results.

The following Monday, the county certified Shah as winner, with a four-vote spread but later revised that lead to a two-vote differential, with the certified election results showing Shah as winner, 1,193 to 1,191, over Cwerner.

Cwerner's right to a  was upheld in court, and the vote-by-vote recount was held on May 19 at the warehouse housing voting machines and concluded at the county Board of Elections Office in Somerville. The recount reiterated that Shah had won the seat by two votes.

However, Cwerner's attorney announced the challenge to the disqualification of the votes at the start of the Memorial Day weekend, and said the legitimate voters whose ballots were tossed out have joined the court challenge.

School Business Administrator Nick Markarian last week said the school district will take no action until advised by the court or Board of Elections. Shah already was

Markarian said he could not estimate the cost for a special election. He said the April 27 school election cost the district $6,500 _ including poll workers' salaries and use of the voting machines _ but he added he does not know if the cost of a more limited election would be less.

Cwerner declined last week to further elaborate on her attorney's announcement.

"School Board election laws provide that any runoff must occur within 60 days of the original election, by June 27, 2011," Orr said in an email announcing the challenge.


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