BALLSTON SPA — Absentee ballots turned the tide away from a change in city government Tuesday, as the votes were tallied at the Saratoga County Board of Elections.
The unofficial count was 4,458 against and 4,448 in favor of the charter referendum, which seeks to move from the current mayor-and-commissioners governmental system to a government overseen by an appointed city manager.
William Fruci, Saratoga County's commissioner of elections, said 18 military ballots were sent out and must be postmarked by Nov. 6 and received by Nov. 20 in order to be counted. As of Tuesday, none of the 18 military ballots had been received.
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Fruci added that the official results of the charter referendum would likely not be known until after Thanksgiving.
On Nov. 7, the charter change question came down to around 50 votes, with 4,202 votes cast for and 4,154 votes cast against.
On Tuesday, 246 absentee ballots were cast in favor of the charter referendum while 304 were against.
"It ain't over till it's over, and it's not over yet," said Richard Sellers, spokesman for S.U.C.C.E.S.S., after the ballots had been counted. The non-partisan citizen's organization — the acronym stands for Saratogians United to Continue the Charter Essential to Saratoga's Success — opposes the charter change.
Sellers said the amount of absentee ballots received was impressive. He noted that a previous referendum to change the city's form of government, in 2012, also garnered a lot of absentee ballots.
Sellers added that he felt the absentee ballot count went smoothly.
"I thought it was professionally handled and was very calm and orderly," he said. "I'll celebrate when they tell me it's over."
Bob Turner, chairman of the Charter Review Commission, said the commission plans to ensure that every vote was counted.
"We're going to be looking at whether write-in ballots affected the scanning of those ballots," he said. "We want to make sure they're all scanned in order to make sure that every vote was counted."
Turner added that the close vote conveyed the importance of voting.
"Once again, we were reminded that every vote counts," he said.
If the charter referendum is shot down, Turner said those who voted in favor of changing the city's government would likely not change their minds.
"There are 4,448 citizens who made the decision to change the form of government, and it seems unlikely they're going to go back," he said. "I know I speak for the rest of the commission when I say that we want what's best for Saratoga going forward."