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Results of the Southern Berkshire Regional School Committee elections were delayed because of high voter turnout in Sheffield and an extraordinarily high number of write-in candidates on the ballots for school committee and district attorney, all of which all had to be hand-counted.

Stewart defeated but Sears, Silvers returned to SBRSD school committee as vote tallies delayed in Sheffield

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By Wednesday, Nov 7, 2018 News

Bonnie Silvers. Photo: David Scribner

Sheffield — It took a while to determine the winners because of the volume of write-in ballots in the district’s largest town, but two veteran school committee members from Sheffield will retain their seats while a long-serving member from Alford was sent packing.

Bonnie Silvers and Dennis Sears, both of Sheffield, were re-elected after a spirited race against two younger challengers with children in the district. For a variety of technical reasons, four Sheffield candidates were on the ballot; voters were instructed to pick two and those two with most support — Sears and Silvers — were automatically elected.

See the unofficial election results by town below, or click here to see a larger view:

Image courtesy Southern Berkshire Regional School District superintendent’s office.

 

In an interview, Silvers, who currently chairs the school committee, said the third Sheffield seat might be settled in a few days. Challengers Jonathan Bruno and Tim Schroepfer were also running, with Bruno getting more votes than Schroepfer but fewer than either Sears or Silvers. Schroepfer is an incumbent but only because he was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Bob Law, who died in April.

Dennis Sears. Photo: David Scribner

But that third open seat will ultimately be decided by what Silvers called the “appointive authority” — in this case, the Sheffield Board of Selectmen and the three current Sheffield members of the school committee: Sears, Silvers and incumbent Art Batacchi, who was not up for re-election this year.

Those three current school committee members will then recommend a name for the fourth Sheffield seat to the selectmen, who would be free in open session to interview other prospects for that Sheffield fourth seat, as well. But Silvers said the final vote will be among the three-member board of selectmen along with Sears, Silvers and Batacchi.

Carl Stewart. Photo: David Scribner

Silvers said this should happen within 10 days from the election because the election cannot be certified until Friday, Nov. 16, when overseas ballots must arrive if they are to be counted toward the total.

Silvers later said the action on the fourth Sheffield member cannot happen until after the new members are sworn in and it’s not yet clear when that will be.

“That could be as far away as the 19th for Dennis and I if there are still overseas ballots,” Silvers said.

Sound confusing enough for you?

Jeffrey Blaugrund

In another closely watched race, an additional newcomer, write-in candidate Jeffrey Blaugrund of Alford, won easily over incumbent Carl Stewart, a former federal prosecutor who, until earlier this year, had chaired the school committee since 2012. Stewart had announced that he was not running for reelection but changed his mind too late to be on the ballot. So he, too, ran as a write-in candidate.

Kenneth Knox

In Egremont, Kenneth Knox was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Genis Melendez-Delaney, who resigned this spring. Knox was not able to get his name on the ballot in time, so he ran as a write-in. Meanwhile, Melendez-Delaney had evidently reconsidered her decision to leave the school committee and put her name out as a write-in candidate. Knox won handily.

Jane Burke

Also running unopposed on the ballot in New Marlborough was retired educator Jane Burke, the former head of the Flying Cloud Institute. Burke was elected by default since there were no other candidates running in her town.

The winners were not entirely clear because the preliminary results from Sheffield were not known until this afternoon. Town clerk Felecie Joyce told The Edge the delay was caused by an extraordinarily high volume of write-in ballots not only because of the school committee contests, but because of a race for Berkshire district attorney that featured one candidate on the ballot and another, the incumbent who was mounting a write-in campaign.

“The DA race was actually less of a burden than the school committee election,” Joyce said.

Sheffield town clerk Felecie Joyce reported 100 voters per hour coming through on Election Day. Photo: Terry Cowgill

Some of the names of school committee write-in candidates (e.g. Blaugrund, Melendez-Delaney) are not exactly easy to spell. So Joyce and her staff found themselves having to determine voter intent, which added to the time needed to produce the results.

In addition, turnout in the five towns in the district was very high, especially for a rainy day during midterm elections. Joyce said she was getting about 100 voters per hour. She expected about 1,500 would cast ballots by the end of the day. Sheffield has 2,332 register voters on its rolls, so turnout was about 64 percent.

Voting in Great Barrington on Election Day was ‘crazy busy,’ according to town clerk Marie Ryan. Photo: Terry Cowgill

In Great Barrington, town clerk Marie Ryan said voter volume was similar to what she experiences during presidential elections: 3,236 of the town’s 4,759 registered voters cast ballots, for a percentage of 68 percent.

The Southern Berkshire election was viewed by many as a generational challenge to the powers that be in the Southern Berkshire Regional School Committee. Click here to read an Edge story in advance of the election. The article was intended to shed light on the issues surrounding the race and to clarify where the candidates stood.


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