The count of paper ballots in the 8th State Senate District inched forward Tuesday with Democratic candidate John Brooks continuing to hold a narrow lead over incumbent GOP State Sen. Michael Venditto as the case moved back to the Nassau County Board of Elections.

State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Diamond directed two court-appointed referees to begin working to reduce the backlog of absentee and affidavit ballots, currently numbering about 1,000, over which there are disputes between Democratic and GOP election commissioners.

The referees, known as judicial hearing officers, examined 51 contested ballots Tuesday at the Board of Elections in Mineola, officials said.

The count could last into next week, officials said.

The Nassau and Suffolk election commissioners — the 8th District includes parts of both counties — agreed on 83 of 1,073 paper ballots that were disputed by party attorneys last week.

But they split on the remaining 990 ballots over issues including the validity of signatures, voter registration data and stray markings on envelopes.

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More than two-thirds of the objections — 727 of 1,073 — were filed by Republican attorneys over Democratic ballots.

Democratic attorney Keith Corbett said Brooks has a 41-vote edge and is a near-lock to win the election because of the overwhelming number of Republican ballot challenges.

Senator Michael Venditto makes a statement on Monday, Sept. 12, 2016. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

“Mathematically, this case is over,” Corbett said. “They are just trying to delay.”

Venditto attorney John Ciampoli says Democratic ballots involve fraud.

He said in court Tuesday that at least one absentee ballot was from a deceased voter. Several other individuals, he said, cast absentee ballots without requesting the proper forms.

“They are trying to cover up fraud,” Ciampoli said of the Democrats.

On Election Day, Brooks, a former Seaford school board member and deputy fire chief, held a 33-vote edge over Venditto (R-Massapequa), who is seeking a second term.