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Monday, October 2, 2006

Globe West finds discrepancy on signature count

NEWTON

A count of votes by Boston Globe West indicates that organizers of a referendum drive to overturn a site plan for a new Newton North High School may have obtained the needed signatures.

The Globe’s finding runs counter to the outcome found last week by the city’s Election Commission, which ruled that the petition drive had failed to collect enough signatures to overturn an aldermen’s vote on the site plan.

A count by the Globe appears to show that found organizers had obtained at least 3,214 certified signatures – 522 more than the necessary 2,692, which represents 5 percent of eligible registered Newton voters. The Globe’s count came from photocopies of petitions notarized by City Clerk David Olson.

Olson confirmed today that he had distributed the photocopies to the organizers, although he could not vouch for the signature count.
The Election Commission put the number at 2,520, or 121 short, according to a notarized copy of their list, which the Globe also obtained from Olson.

Jeff Seideman, president of the Newton Taxpayers Association, challenged the commission’s count last week. Seideman was a member of an ad hoc grassroots group that gathered signatures to put the question on the ballot for voters.

Seideman called on aldermen to investigate the apparent discrepancies. “This raises the question of the integrity of the entire system,” he said.

Olson said this morning that no date for a challenge hearing has been set.

The question, if it were to go to voters, relates to a site plan alderman passed after midnight on Sept. 6 that could bring the cost of a new high school to $140 million to $165 million.

Mayor David B. Cohen, a chief backer of the site plan who defended the commission's vote count last week, was unavailable for comment today.

-- Connie Paige

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