The Chesapeake Beach Town Council voted unanimously Thursday night to conduct a recount of ballots cast in the Nov. 2 mayoral election, which was decided by a margin of 57 votes.
The recount, scheduled to be finished before Tuesday, is the first in the town's recent history, council member Bruce A. Wahl said.
"We're in a bit of uncharted territory," Wahl told a standing-room-only crowd at the council's regular meeting.
Joseph W. Johnson petitioned the town two weeks ago to recount the ballots cast in his narrow loss to five-term incumbent Gerald W. Donovan. Returns have showed Donovan with 742 votes, Johnson with 685.
In another election dispute, the council unanimously rejected a petition from Marguerite Thomas, who fell 25 votes short of winning a council seat. Thomas had questioned whether a candidate who defeated her was a legal resident of the town.
Barbara "Jo" Finch denied Thomas's allegations. Finch said she and her husband have been renting a house at 7543 I St. in Chesapeake Beach since Oct. 1.
"I have documentation of the lease if anyone would like to see it," she said at the meeting.
Thomas questioned whether Finch had lived in town long enough to qualify as a resident. "What is the definition of a legal resident?" she said.
When council member Stewart B. Cumbo responded that the town charter does not define the term, Thomas urged the council to create a definition.
"I hope we do," Donovan said.
At first, the council decided simply not to act on Thomas's petition. But Finch's husband, Edward, asked the six-member council to reject the request because it "impugns on the integrity and honesty of my wife and I." The council obliged him.
The council also appointed the most senior member of the council, Wahl, and the newest member, Valerie L. Beaudin, to oversee the recount, which will be paid for by the town.
Donovan and town attorney Eric Blitz left the room while the council discussed the recount to prevent any appearance of a conflict of interest.
Council members predicted the recount of ballots from three mechanical voting machines and of absentee ballots would be simple.
"That can't take more than an hour!" a man shouted from the audience.
Wahl responded: "That's right."