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7th Senate Race to be Certified Saturday Morning

Supreme Court rules on disputed absentee, affidavit ballots in race.

More than one month , the is looking to finally certify the intensely contested between incumbent , D- Port Washington, and Mineola , R, I, C, in a rare weekend session scheduled for 9:30 a.m. this Saturday.

Judge Ira Warshawsky called for the weekend court date after hearing further arguments in his fourth floor courtroom late Thursday afternoon and evening and issuing rulings on affidavit and absentee ballots which had . Warshawsky had given permission Wednesday to examine 113 of 288 envelopes. Republican Board of Election chair John Ryan had brought into court 47 of the ballots as an exhibit.

When questioned by Warshawsky as to the audit report on the electronic voting machines, Ryan stated that he had "a partial report" and "not one report signed by both parties." Democrats said that they sent over their report to Republicans. When asked if the Democrats could simply have a copy of the Republican report, seeing as how Republicans had possession of a copy of the Democrat report, Warshawsky said "that's fine with me," before deciding to move on to the pile of still disputed absentee ballots.

"See if you can resolve any of the unresolved issues," Warshawsky said. "I doubt it."

A. Jeffrey Grobb had finished his review of absentee ballots as well as opened envelopes, with counts of 143 and 176, respectively. "These were all affidavit ballots which were found not to be counted," Warshawsky said in summation, adding that there were "certain groups and certain numbers" on which he and Grobb disagreed.

In each case the three boxes on the affidavit ballot were not filled in. The boxes designate reasons for voting by affidavit ballot such as the voter's name does not appear in the registration book, if a voter has moved from one address to another inside the county, or failure to provide photo identification. The affidavit ballots in question did not have any of these boxes checked, did not have both sides of the ballot properly filled out, or both.

Johnson campaign attorney Steve Schlesinger explained this as "the Board personnel failure to turn it over and see," citing pages in the field guide for inspectors where diagrams of the ballots for the general election and primaries were on adjacent pages. "It leads the people to believe they should only do it in a primary," he said.

"I would hope that some strong recommendation in the future be made to election workers" regarding ballots Warshawsky said, adding that the court would be following Grobb's recommendation to not admit the ballots.

Warshawsky said that "the court is somewhat concerned" about who was voting for certain absentee ballot recipients, citing several reasons why a voter would receive a ballot, including a "developmental disability", "deaf" or even "death." It was said in court that typically in the instances of the former two, the voter would be in an extended care facility, with the facility's manager filling out forms, a fact those in court said they knew to be the case. "There's a lot of questions here," Warshawsky said, disallowing two ballots to be counted.  

Just as Johnson had done a day prior, Martins sat in the back of the courtroom, taking in the scene as a number of ballots were called into question due to signatures on their envelopes. One ballot from a Mineola resident was singled out since the handwriting had changed from one month to the next. The court found that it was the signature of the resident and ordered the envelope to be opened and counted.

Several other opened ballots objected to because of extraneous markings on the ballot, including a large question mark that was drawn upon the back which Warshawsky displayed to the court before ordering 11 counted and five not to be counted. Paging through the complete list, there were a total of approximately 104 ballots ordered to be counted in keeping with the referee's rulings, and 63 not to be counted. "A lot of these can be 'flip a coin' issues," Warshawsky said.

Regarding the , and the delay of the final report, raw ballots are first counted and then brought to a table for reconciliation "and that's what's holding us up" Democrats said, promising that the final report would now be done by 2 p.m. on Friday instead of the original deadline of Thursday morning. Ryan then submitted letters into evidence from Democratic commissioner William Biamonte allegedly showing how the commissioner approached the audit and be conducted "from day one."

With approximately 60 ballots left to be counted by order of the court, attorneys said that they could be done by late Friday morning. Grobb will be at Board of Elections at 11 a.m. Friday for rulings on the envelopes. Martins .

Both sides are due back in court at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday when according to the judge the race will most likely be certified.

UPDATE: Martins leads by 451 after the completion of counting the remaining ballots Friday afternoon.

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