About 75 people crowded into a room smaller than the average LIRR car Monday to begin the laborious process of counting more than 8,000 paper ballots that may decide who is Nassau County executive and county comptroller next year.
When the final machine count was completed last week, two-term incumbent Democrat Thomas Suozzi was 459 votes behind Republican challenger Edward Mangano in the race for county executive, and two-term incumbent Democrat Howard Weitzman was 948 votes behind Republican challenger George Maragos in the race for comptroller.
When the board finished Monday's count shortly after 7 p.m., Suozzi was behind by 554 votes, and Weitzman trailed by 1,019, according to a Board of Elections printout. Workers counted 536 of the more than 8,000 ballots Monday and were scheduled to resume this morning.
The count began about 10:10 a.m., and two attorneys - one for Democrats, one for Republicans - sat across from two Board of Elections workers at each of six rectangular tables at the board offices in Mineola.
At table No. 1 at 2:30 p.m., an attorney flicked an absentee ballot over several times and said he had some questions about the voter's signature.>>VIDEO: Click here to watch the process of counting more than 8,000 paper ballots to decide who will become the Nassau County executive
A Board of Elections supervisor went to a computer and got a printout of the application originally submitted by the voter.
After comparing the computer-generated signature with the signature on the absentee ballot, the attorney said he objected and the ballot was placed in a wire basket at the end of the table. It and other challenged ballots will go to State Supreme Court Justice Edward McCarty for a decision on whether the votes are valid.
At table No. 4 earlier in the day, one attorney looking at a copy of the front and back of the ballot along with the application said, "I'm not objecting."
His counterpart said, "You're not objecting, I'm not objecting, so let's open it."
Then a Board of Elections worker across the table opened the ballot, put the envelope face down in one pile and the ballot in another pile to be counted later in the day.
Earlier Monday, Board of Elections workers showed McCarty the inner workings at the rear of one of the voting machines used on Election Day. McCarty has jurisdiction over any dispute arising from either the 247,000 votes recorded on the machines or the 8,000 paper ballots.
A county legislative seat and control of the Long Beach City Council also will be decided as part of the count of 7,165 absentee ballots that were mailed in, as well as 927 affidavit ballots that voters filled out at polling places on Nov. 3 because their names were not in the sign-in books or other problems arose.
Raw vote totals from the Nassau County Board of Elections as of Monday night:
Nassu County Executive:
Thomas Suozzi 118,761
Edward Mangano 119,315
Steve Hansen 9,551
(Mangano leads by 554)
Howard Weitzman 115,167
George Maragos 116,186
(Maragos leads by 1,019)
14th County Legislative District
Joseph Belesi 7,265
David Mejias 7,123
(Belesi leads by 142)