SOUTH KINGSTOWN — The Rhode Island Board of Election does not anticipate certified election results until Nov. 30, according to Town Manager Robert Zarnetske.
Until then, the town will not be able to certify the results of any local races either, meaning the current council will continue through the end of the month and into early December. This election season, counting all the votes has taken much longer than usual.
“They really were dealing with a lot of unusual circumstances this year,” Zarnetske said. “Many, many, many write-in ballots, a lot of poll numbers to deal with, machine poll numbers to deal with from the emergency voting, and a number of computer glitches around the state that did cause the board of elections some difficulty in tabulating all of the results.”
“It’s just a lot of work,” he added. “They really received an extraordinary number of votes, and they came in more forms than is typical.”
Things like provisional ballots, which were tabulated on Tuesday, and deficient ballots, which can be cured up until Friday, have also held up the count. Military and overseas ballots, which had until Tuesday afternoon to arrive, also hold up the official results.
In South Kingstown, the arrival of new ballots can — and already has — altered the results of local elections. In a tight race for town council, candidates Charles “Greg” Sweet and Jessica Rose have swapped places between a fifth and sixth place finish.
Early returns had shown Sweet taking up the fifth and final seat on the council, with a comfortable 36 vote lead over Rose. In the time since, however, now that more mail and provisional ballots have been counted, Rose now has a 55 vote lead. These numbers could still continue to change, since results have not been updated since Tuesday evening.
Given how close the vote is, Sweet shared on Facebook that, after careful consideration, he’ll be requesting a recount from the board of elections.
“I by no means feel there has been any ‘funny business’ going on,” Sweet wrote on Tuesday. “This is a year of many adjustments to our lives, work and the elections. I feel the board of elections has been overwhelmed and has had to make many many adjustments to what the normal is.”
According to Town Clerk Susan Flynn, recounts will begin this coming week.
In a week’s time, the race for school committee has become less tight. Former Superintendent Robert Hicks, who’d trailed 40 votes behind the fourth place finisher, is now 93 votes behind, since the voting data was last updated on Tuesday evening.
“While the result is not as hoped, I thank all my supporters, sign posters, endorsers, and ballot casters who stepped up on my behalf,” Hicks shared on Facebook last Wednesday evening. “I wish those elected success in building strong SK schools for the benefit of students.”
At the moment, based upon current results, it appears as if the school committee will be joined by newcomers Paula Whitford, Christie Fish and Melissa Boyd, and incumbent Michelle Brousseau.
While Town Council President Abel Collins, Councilman Rory McEntee and Councilwoman Deb Kelso will all be returning to the table, both Town Council Vice President Bryant Da Cruz and Councilman Joe Viele did not seek re-election. Deborah Bergner, who finished at the top of the polls, will help round out the roster of five, but the fifth seat is not yet definitive.
At the moment, Rose holds 10.8 percent of the vote, and Sweet trails closely behind with 10.7 percent of the vote. Between polling place, mail and emergency ballots, Rose was able to capture 6,743 votes, and Sweet was able to capture 6,688 votes.
Addressing the concerns of a worried citizen, Zarnetske stressed that the council will not be appointing a new president or vice president before the new council can convene. A swearing-in ceremony is anticipated for Dec. 7.
In other business, the council voted to extend the temporary expansion of licensed premises for restaurants that have been taking their services outside.
“I wish luck to everyone out there who’s going to be trying to serve folks in the cold,” Collins said. “It’s a challenging year, but we’ve been up to the task so far.”
The council also passed a proclamation to celebrate “Small Businesses Saturday” this coming weekend, urging residents to patronize local businesses this Saturday.