Altschuler, ahead by 383, rejects Bishop recount request

Randy Altschuler, 1st CD GOP candidate, gives a

Randy Altschuler, 1st CD GOP candidate, gives a thumbs up after casting his ballot at St. James Elementary School, Tuesday. (Nov. 2, 2010) (Credit: James Carbone)

Attorneys for Randy Altschuler Tuesday formally rejected a request from Rep. Tim Bishop's campaign to agree to a hand recount of the 185,000 ballots cast in their congressional race, in which Altschuler holds a 383-vote lead.

The discussion, which took place in the Riverhead chambers of State Supreme Court Justice Peter H. Mayer, comes as little surprise, given previous statements by Altschuler, a St. James Republican, and his spokesman.

Yet aides to Bishop (D-Southampton) said after the hearing they had hoped Altschuler's camp would agree to a manual recount without a judge's order.

"We thought we could work something out in the judge's chambers, but we came to learn that their position hardened," said Chris Sautter, a Washington attorney retained by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee who is working for Bishop.

In the next few days, the Bishop campaign will petition the court seeking a judge-supervised hand recount of all ballots cast in the race, attorney Thomas Garry said.

Altschuler's attorney, Vincent Messina, declined to speak after the hearing, but Altschuler spokesman Rob Ryan said the two sides should follow election board protocol and wait for the in-progress 3 percent audit of Suffolk voting machines and the counting of more than 11,000 absentee and affidavit ballots.

"Once again, the Bishop campaign is trying to jump the gun," he said. "Just like they jumped the gun last week in declaring victory."

The state-mandated audit continued Tuesday at Suffolk elections board headquarters in Yaphank. A team of eight ballot counters working in pairs made their way through ballots from 43 of the more than 1,433 voting machines countywide.

Two machines were audited Monday and officials completed two more Tuesday. Each voting machine contains about 500 to 800 ballots, depending on the size of the district.

In Nassau, attorneys for State Sen. Craig Johnson (D-Port Washington) and Mineola Mayor Jack Martins are due in court this morning to discuss the Johnson campaign's request for a court-supervised hand recount of ballots in his race, where Martins leads by 415 votes.

Nassau's elections board also plans to begin an inventory of emergency ballots completed by voters but not counted by the ballot scanners on Election Day, Democratic elections commissioner William Biamonte said.

The Johnson-Martins race is one of three State Senate contests still too close to call. Democrats must win all three to retain the majority, while Republicans need two to take it back.

State Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer (D-Mamaroneck) leads the GOP's Robert Cohen by 504 votes and Republican Mark Grisanti leads State Sen. Antoine Thompson (D-Buffalo) by 598, according to unofficial returns.

With Carl MacGowan, James T. Madore and Nick Spangler

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