News, views and commentary on Long Island, state and national politics.
Nassau County has an indeterminate number of so-far uncounted emergency (or provisional) ballots left to count because voting machines broke down Election Day and poll workers did not properly feed the emergency -- or provisional -- ballots into the machines once they restarted.
A preponderance of the machine breakdowns were in -- you guessed it! -- the tight-as-can-be race between state Sen. Craig Johnson (D-Port Washington) and his GOP challenger, Mineola Mayor Jack Martins. According to unofficial returns, Martins has a 415-vote lead. As of Wednesrday's mail, there also were 3,383 absentee ballots left to count.
"We have reason to believe that there are a lot of ballots out there that weren’t scanned," Nassau Democratic Elections Commissioner William Biamonte told us. "We're checking for all emergency ballots that weren’t scanned that are still in the machines . . . We know we had a lot of breakdowns where they had to go to emergency ballots. We're assuming there is a lot of paper out there that wasn’t counted at the end of the night."
Biamonte said Nassau elections personnel are sending out a public notice Thursday giving interested parties (and us!) five days to prepare for the voting machines to be opened at the Board of Elections in Mineola. That's scheduled to happen Wednesday, Nov. 10, when elections officials will open each machine, look for the uncounted ballots and feed them through the machines.
This process -- which will remind some of the 2009 recount in the Thomas Suozzi-Edward Mangano county executive race -- will surely be watched closely by partisan operatives and whoever else cares to spend several days in beautiful Mineola.
Austin Shafran, the spokesman for Senate Democrats who desperately need to hold the Johnson seat to retain their two-seat majority, kept to his message of insisting every vote should count (as if anyone would argue otherwise). Shafran said Senate Democrats have retained election lawyer Thomas Garry, who is also working for Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) in his close fight with Republican Randy Altschuler.
"The people get to decide the outcome of elections," he said. "We're going to make sure that happens by making sure every vote is counted."
Martins, meanwhile, said he's not planning to hire legal help unless Team Johnson goes to court first. About how he might respond to legal action from Senate Democrats, Martins said: "I have yet to hear from my counterpart, but everything I'm hearing seems to be steered through the Democrat party, the New York City-dominated Democrat party. Maybe that’s how they do things in New York City, but they should allow the process to play itself out in the suburbs and not interfere."