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With votes still being counted in the Fourth Congressional District, Secretary of State William Galvin has asked Suffolk Superior Court to explicitly authorize local clerks to continue counting mail-in and other ballots received before the polls closed on Tuesday, but which still have not been tallied.
Galvin said that due to the volume of mail-in ballots and, in some case, their last-minute arrival, not all ballots received by the 8 p.m. deadline on Tuesday have been counted. The secretary, however, said that state law lacks procedures for counting ballots after the day of the election.
Widespread mail-in voting is new to Massachusetts this year, put in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to encourage safe participation in the elections.
"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 in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
Galvin's office said it had reached out to the leading Democratic candidates in the 4th Congressional District to inform them about what he was doing.
With over 96% of the vote record, Newton City Councilor Jake Auchincloss appeared to be holding on to a slim 1,506-vote lead over his closest competitor Jesse Mermell, a progressive one-time Brookline selectwoman and former head of the Alliance for Business Leadership.
Newton was one of the communities where late-arriving ballots were still being counted on Wednesday morning.
Unofficial results posted online showed Mermell with a 934-vote lead on Auchincloss in the city west of Boston, but City Clerk David Olsen told the News Service that overseas and mail-in ballots that arrived late Tuesday, but before the 8 p.m. deadline, were still being counted.
Olsen said he didn't know exactly how many ballots had not been tallied, but was it was "not many."
"We are getting there," Olsen said, just before 11 a.m.
Earlier in the day, Mermell's campaign manager Katie Prisco-Buxbaum wrote a letter to city and town clerks asking their offices to publicly share the status of their ballot count.
"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," Prisco-Buxbaum said. "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."
It's unclear how long it might take for a judge to consider Galvin's request.
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