Dispute delays absentee ballot mailing

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Nassau and Suffolk counties have delayed sending out more than 50,000 absentee ballots for the November election because of a dispute over a minor party line in a State Supreme Court race.

Election officials in both counties said the mailing has been delayed by a challenge to State Supreme Court candidate Richard Ambro, a Democrat, receiving the Working Families Party line. After another candidate dropped out, the Working Families Party moved to give the line to Ambro, but Republicans objected.

Suffolk officials said they expected to begin mailing the ballots Friday. Suffolk GOP Elections Deputy Commissioner Bill Ellis said, "We have started working on the absentee ballots today and expect to get some of them in the mail before 4 p.m., some tomorrow and the rest by Monday."

Ellis noted that requests for absentee ballots can be postmarked as late as Oct. 30 and can be picked up as late as Nov. 5.

Nassau Democratic Elections Commissioner William Biamonte said Nassau would begin mailing the ballots Monday.

Iris Weissman of Plainview was a bit upset with the delay: "My husband and I are going on a cruise next week, and we wanted to do our civic duty. This is a big election. Then, we're told no absentee ballots are available."

Biamonte said he would have liked to have sent the ballots out about 10 days ago. "The earlier they go out the more we get [back] early," he said.

But if Ambro wins the line, the counties would have to reprint the ballots and mail out the new ones, according to election officials in each county.

"A second printing would cost us up to $20,000 with mailing, and that doesn't include labor and possible overtime costs," Biamonte said. "We would have to specially mark each sent second ballot to separate it from the first in case the voter sends back both ballots."

Biamonte noted that if somebody sent in both ballots, only the second would be counted.

The Ambro case is scheduled to be heard Wednesday in State Supreme Court in Riverhead.

Ambro could not be reached for comment.

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