Judge orders clerks to continue counting ballots in Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional District race

BOSTON (WHDH) – A Suffolk Superior Court judge on Wednesday evening explicitly authorized local election clerks to continue counting state primary ballots in Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional District Democratic race that were received on time and had not been tallied as of the end of Tuesday night following a court order request that was filed by Secretary of the Commonwealth William F. Galvin.

Several local election officials reported to Galvin’s office that they had not yet completed their final counts for the race between Democratic candidates Jesse Mermell and Jake Auchincloss due to the volume of mail-in ballots and the last-minute arrival of some.

The race remained too close to call as of late Wednesday afternoon, with Auchincloss leading Mermell by nearly 1,800 votes, prompting Galvin to seek court authorization. More than 1,400 ballots remain uncounted, including 600 in Franklin, more than 700 in Newton, and 100 in Wellesley.

City and town clerks, including those at Newton City Hall, were told earlier in the day to stop counting and to seal votes that came in before 8 p.m. on Tuesday, 7NEWS learned.

Hours later, a judge ruled in favor of allowing counting to continue in Franklin, Newton, and Wellesley, but said official tallies must be completed on Thursday with observers overseeing the process.

Existing state laws lack procedures for the counting of state primary ballots after election day, Galvin noted.

In order to ensure that the ballot counting process is fully transparent for all candidates and voters, Galvin said he filed the petition with Suffolk Superior Court to ensure that local election officials have the legal authorization they need to tally ballots in a manner that is open to public observation.

“On election day, there are strict procedures in place to make sure that ballots are counted in public view, where anyone may observe the process. It is important that we preserve that same level of transparency for ballots counted after Election Day,” Galvin said.

Mermell and Auchincloss are vying for the seat being vacated by Democratic Rep. Joe Kennedy III, who opted not to seek reelection and instead challenge Sen. Edward Markey in the U.S. Senate primary.

In a statement, the Mermell campaign said, “We are pleased to see the actions being taken by clerks and Secretary of State Galvin to secure and count all the votes in this race. This is exactly in line with the concerns our campaign raised earlier today. Given the unprecedented nature of this election process, we believe it is incumbent on all communities to be clear about how many ballots are outstanding, including ballots that arrived as polls closed, so that we can have the utmost confidence in the end result.”

Auchincloss added, “While the results of our primary are being calculated, I encourage all voters and candidates to allow the process to comprehensively and lawfully unfold. While we always expected a competitive race, we are confident that our full-district campaign will be victorious when the results are announced.”

Auchincloss is a Marine veteran and a city councilor in Newton, while Mermell is a former member of the Brookline Select Board and a former advisor to former Gov. Deval Patrick.

This is a developing news story; stay with 7NEWS for updates online and on-air.

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