Counting absentee ballots in Johnson-Martins race

An audit of the county votes continues into

An audit of the county votes continues into the evening at the Suffok County Board of Elections in Yaphank Wednesday night. (Nov. 10, 2010) (Credit: James Carbone)

As attorneys for state Sen. Craig Johnson (D-Port Washington) go to court Friday to ask a judge to order a hand recount of the 81,685 ballots cast in his race against Mineola Mayor Jack Martins, Nassau elections officials began the arduous process of recording the contest's absentee ballots.

Johnson led Martins 113-51 among absentee ballots counted Thursday and now trails the race by 427 votes. Republicans challenged about 60 ballots and Democrats challenged about 20, Johnson attorney Steven Schleshinger said. More than 3,000 absentee and affidavit ballots remain to be counted, Democratic Commissioner of Elections William Biamonte said.

The campaigns are due in State Supreme Court Justice Ira Warshawsky's courtroom Friday to discuss Schleshinger's request for a hand recount.

"This is a close race, we want to be diligent that every vote is counted and we are going to need a full paper count by hand," state and Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs said.

Martins, who opposes the recount, made an appearance at the Board of Elections in Mineola. He said it is important to come to a conclusion quickly.

In Suffolk, the Board of Elections spent 12 hours on its audit of the 43 voting machines that must be examined. By the end of Thursday, officials had almost completed auditing eight machines and had found no problems, they said.

The state-mandated effort has election officials checking the accuracy of the vote count recorded by the new voting machines in 3 percent of Suffolk's election districts. State law now requires such a check after every election and Nassau's is set to begin Wednesday.

Republican and Democratic representatives sat at long brown tables, where workers checked filled-in dots on the ballots and compared them to the machine counts.

Also Thursday, Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and his Republican challenger, Randy Altschuler, both announced they will spend next week in Washington.

Altschuler, who currently leads by 383, will attend orientation for new members of Congress - where his campaign noted he will participate in a lottery for office space - and Bishop's spokeswoman said he will be "working for the people of the 1st Congressional District" during the congressional lame-duck session.

The Bishop-Altschuler race is one of two unresolved Suffolk races. Bishop's attorney Thomas Garry said Thursday that he plans next week to ask a judge to order a hand recount. Altschuler's spokesman Rob Ryan said Thursday it was premature to discuss a hand recount until the audit is completed and absentee ballots are counted.

Assemb. Marc Alessi (D-Shoreham) trails Suffolk Legis. Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham) by 890 votes in the unofficial count of results in the 1st Assembly District - the other unresolved Suffolk race.

Attorneys for Alessi and Losquadro have a court appearance scheduled for Monday to discuss Alessi's request for a hand recount in their race.

With Stacey Altherr and Mitchell Freedman

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