Counting of absentee ballots continued in the contentious race for New York's 7th senatorial district between Mineola Mayor Jack Martins, R, I, C, and incumbent Sen. Craig Johnson, D-Port Washington Friday and so did did arguments between attorneys for both sides inside State Supreme Court Justice Ira Warshawsky's courtroom.
On Wednesday Justice Warshawsky ordered that a complete canvas roll be produced and that the counting of absentee ballots begin immediately. Friday morning Republican Board of Election chair John Ryan requested that the court appoint a monitor to "babysit these parties" after reporting that Democrats on the Board had been behind closed doors, refusing to come out. "I can't believe it," Warshawsky said, exasperated that the Democratic counselor Tom Garry was also not present when proceedings began. "The same problem seems to be repeating itself today," Martins campaign attorney Peter Bee said.
Johnson campaign attorney Steve Schlesinger stated that they had counted a second voting machine from Floral Park Memorial High School which was used after one broke down the morning of Election day, as well as the green bags containing emergency ballots. However, Ryan said that vote counters had only taken the ballots out, and then placed them back inside the bags, calling the action "a waste of probably two to three hours" and taxpayer money spent on overtime during Veterans Day.
Schlesinger reported that he had "found discrepancies," of which "half... you're unable to reconcile" against the canvas rolls. "There is nothing different about this canvas than there has been for the past 30 years," Bee said, attributing the discrepancies to human error, by placing the incorrect machine numbers on lines. "That's not the same thing as saying a fraud has been perpetrated upon the public." Schlesinger rebuffed, saying that about two or three ballots were missing on each machine, on a total of about 274 machines.
There were about 3,600 absentee ballots outstanding Wednesday. Democrats have objected to around 20 ballots, while Republicans objected to 60. Speaking after Friday's hearing, Bee said that Martins remains in the lead by approximately 400 votes.
"I want all the ballots that we've got counted!" Warshawsky said.
Schlesinger then went on to request copies of the images of the ballots recorded on the voting machines' flash drives to see if there had been any ovals circled by voters, which under election law count. Voters are instructed to fill in the ovals when they fill out their ballots. Schlesinger is asking for a hand recount to take place in order to discover evidence to justify a hand recount. "What we have here is a chicken and the egg problem," he said, summarizing the circular logic.
"This is a fishing expedition!" Bee said, submitting that it is "impossible" for people to count the approximately 82,000 pieces of paper and arrive at the same number twice, and Schlesinger was asking for a "private audit," and that "to date, zero discrepancies have been found between the machines and the paper ballot."
The court did not order a hand count or that the ballot images be released, only that the three-percent audit take place on all County machines. "Attempt to move up the... audit," Warshawsky said. The counting of absentee ballots will continue as well as absentees and the affidavit ballots in the green bags.
A recount will start Nov. 17, and although Bee says he is ready to start the process Saturday, there were questions about notification, as each candidate who holds a stake in the recount, i.e. is on the ballot and within a certain margin within the district, must be notified and given time to have representatives present if requested. County attorney John Ciampoli requested that the machines from the 7th Senatorial district be "triaged," being among the first to be audited to speed up the process. Counselors stated that they would have to verify whether that course could be taken or if the machines must be audited in the order in which they are randomly selected. Warshawsky "suggested" that should a large enough discrepancy be found, a three-percent sample audit of the 7th Senatorial be conducted.
The sides are due back in court Nov. 29.