Mayor Alice K. Wolf, Councillor Walter J. Sullivan and Councillor Francis H. Duehay '55 were formally elected to the Cambridge City Council last night, in the first step of a procedure that will end with the election of six more candidates late tonight.
In a bizarre and convoluted process that one on-looker observed "is like something out of Saturday Night Live," employees of the city's Election Commission worked until 12:35 a.m. this morning to formalize the tally of first-place votes from Tuesday's election and to redistribute Wolf's surplus votes.
Election commissioners announced the official election of Wolf and Sullivan just before breaking for dinner. The mob of Cambridge political junkies crowding the Longfellow School gym where the ballots are being tallied, responded to the news with polite applause.
The commissioners announced that 23,344 people voted in Tuesday's elections and that 356 ballots were invalid, putting the quota of number one or transfer votes a candidate needs to be ensured a council seat at 2298.
Wolf received 4431 first-place votes Tuesday and Sullivan 2478, so both were elected immediately.
After dinner, the city employees began distributing Wolf's surplus votes. Under Cambridge's unique system of proportional representation, any votes a candidate earns above the quota are redistributed to the second choices marked on the voters' ballots.
If the second candidate on the ballot has also reached the necessary quota, the votes go to the number three ballot choice. The votes of candidates who fail to reach the quota are redistributed in the same way.
Duehay was formally elected at 10:45 p.m., after 357 of Wolf's surplus votes brought him to the quota.
Although the process of redistribution itself is arcane and carnivalesque, Cambridge pols like to maintain that it contains an element of small-town charm.
Four commission employees sat at a table with Wolf's 1833 surplus ballots in front of them, picking them up one by one and shouting the names of the second-place candidates. Other employees then placed the ballots in the appropriate piles.
Candidates, campaign managers and curious townies took furious notes, jostled one another for a better view and speculated as to the import of each vote.
"This is the greatest meeting ground for Cambridge politics there is, every two years," said longtime city activist James M. Williamson, a member of the civic group Working Committee for a Cambridge Rainbow.
Political junkies from all walks of life and from diametrically opposed ideological camps rubbed shoulders, sharing the latest numbers and trading tidbits of information on how Councillor Edward N. Cyr--running neck-and-neck with School Committee member Alfred E. Vellucci--was faring with Wolf's transfers.
Clean-cut Young Independents in ties and button-down shirts hung out next to scruffy members of the liberal Cambridge Tenants Union (CTU), snacking on baklava and cookies from the Longfellow PTA bake sale set up outside the gym. Conservative Independents joked with members of the progressive Cambridge Civic Association (CCA), although Vellucci, an Independent, and Cyr, a member of the CCA, are currently battling it out for the crucial ninth council seat, which will give one group a majority on the council.
The CCA currently holds the council majority, and at this point all of the incumbents except for Cyr are virtually assured reelection.
Cyr, who is thought to have been hurt by over-confidence, a last-minute smear campaign and criticism instead of endorsement from the tenant sector, picked up 434 transfer votes last night. That puts him in ninth place with 1657 votes and Vellucci in 10th with 1269.
However, pundits are saying that with Wolf's surplus Cyr exhausted his transfer vote potential, and that Vellucci could inch pass him on the strength of Sullivan's transfers and surplus from the candidates who will not reach quota.
While Cyr was conspicuous by his absence last night, Vellucci was present in full force, confident that victory would be his.
"I had a mission in this whole campaign. Right from the start my mission was to snatch back that fifth seat...and now I've come to claim it," Vellucci said. "I'm going to sit here patiently until I'm reelected."
Vellucci also commented that "there should be a bar in here," and said that when elected he would plant purple lilacs around the Lampoon building