Republicans were all but assured they will regain control of the state Senate for the next two years after a Nassau County judge Saturday certified the election of Republican Jack Martins over incumbent Democrat Craig Johnson in the Seventh Senate District.
The final tally by the Nassau County Board of Elections on Friday night was 42,942 votes for Martins and 42,491 for Johnson, a margin of 451 votes in a race in which 85,000 ballots were cast.
Barring a successful appeal by Johnson, when the Senate reconvenes on Jan. 5, Republicans will have a 32-30 majority. Johnson's attorney, Steven Schlesinger, said outside court that he was considering whether to appeal, but Johnson later released a statement saying he would appeal.
Schlesinger had pressed for a hand count of all ballots on grounds the optical scan voting machines had missed enough Johnson votes to change the election's outcome. "The procedures governing these new voting machines are uncharted territory. What happens here could very well govern how all future close elections are decided," Johnson said in a statement. "That is why I intend to take my request for a full hand recount to a higher court."
Justice Ira Warshawsky of State Supreme Court said in a rare weekend court session that even with Johnson afforded every doubt, he was unlikely - on a statistical basis - to pick up enough votes in a hand count to alter the outcome. "The court finds there is an insufficient basis for ordering a hand count," he ruled, adding: "The Johnson-Martins race is certified."
A smiling Martins emerged from the courtroom to say that he was looking forward to working with his colleagues in Albany, and said he was not distressed by the monthlong count of paper ballots and audit of the voting machines.
"There's a process here that you need to follow, and it's important for people to know that the process is being followed," he said.
In the only other undecided Senate race, incumbent Democrat Suzi Oppenheimer holds a lead of slightly more than 300 votes over Republican opponent Robert Cohen in the 37th District in Westchester County. If Cohen were to end up winning, Republicans would then have a 33-29 majority.
After Warshawsky's decision, Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos of Rockville Centre said, "There's important work to be done in Albany, and now that the elections are over we're eager to get right to it.
Warshawsky still has jurisdiction over this year's general election in Nassau County because of a consent order obtained by both Republicans and Democrats on Election Day, and he could still order the just completed sample audit to be expanded.