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Martins Leads in Recount of New York's 7th Senate Race

Court of Appeals sets guidelines for review process.

For the second time this year, Mineola Mayor Jack Martins, R, I, C, has declared victory in the race for New York's 7th senatorial district. Returns on election night originally had Martins declaring victory over incumbent Sen. Craig Johnson, D- Port Washington, but the race found its way from the ballot box to State Supreme Court over the issue of absentee ballot counting and requests for a recount.

"Four hundred and three votes will, realistically make a real difference the next two years," Martins said after colleagues clapped as he walked off the loading dock at the Board of Elections building. "It was everybody, and everyone's efforts in picking up those extra two or three votes everywhere that got us where we are."

In one of the adjacent rooms, Martins seemed to be taking it in yet again. "It was the footwork," he said, "because they outspent us two-to-one. Money doesn't buy elections."

During the last week election workers have been combing through 3,600 absentee ballots one at a time. The full recount of the district was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but was pushed back to Thursday over concerns about candidate notification. Counters managed to complete the entire recount Thursday.

Above the loading dock, a different group of election workers were going through the mandatory three-percent audit of Nassau County's voting machines. It was not known how many machines from the 7th Senate District were included in the count or how close they were to being audited. According to attorneys, the machines are picked at random and must be audited in the order in which they are selected. Judge Warshawsky has "suggested" that should a large enough discrepancy be found, a three-percent sample audit of the 7th senatorial be conducted.

Martins never trailed in the recount, with 180 votes being the closest the two candidates were separated by at midday Tuesday after heavily Democratic districts had been counted. Martins' lead grew to 278 by Wednesday and the final 403 tally Thursday evening. The total vote count was 42,532 in favor of Martins to 42,129 for Johnson. A total of 879 objections to various absentee ballots were made, 508 from the Democratic side.

Republican officials reported that there existed 89 more GOP-registered ballots in the box that Democrats objected to than ballots objected to by Republicans. "A lot of these elections now are going to be a few hundred votes," Sen. Dean Skelos, R- Rockville Centre, said. "If you think about it, it's about a vote-and-a-half an election district."

In a statement issued Friday morning, Johnson spokesman Richard Azzopardi said that "we have already been alerted to potential discrepancies," and that Sen. Johnson is "committed to making sure that every vote is accounted for and believe(s) that a full hand count is the only way to ensure that. No one should be comfortable with the prospect of having the next senator for the 7th Senate District forever serve with an asterisk next to their name."

Martins said that the statement came as "no surprise," and was a "typical response from someone who's lost." He added that Johnson "doesn't like the results of the election so now he wants to change the rules. Craig Johnson hasn't listened to voters for the last two years, why whould he start now?"

On Thursday Justice Jonathan Lippman, chief judge of the state Court of Appeals, issued a series of deadlines that were meant to move the appeals process along before the state Legislature reconvenes with its new members in January. The deadline was set for Dec. 20 for the appeals process, but the guidelines say that all hearings and rulings should be competed by Dec. 6. Attorneys for the Martins and Johnson campaigns are scheduled to be back in State Supreme Court on Nov. 29.

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