Republicans oppose Dems' push for recount in close races

Congressman Tim Bishop, the day after election night,

Congressman Tim Bishop, the day after election night, stands outside his home in Southampton. (Nov. 3, 2010) (Credit: Gordon M. Grant)

As Suffolk officials began the arduous process of auditing election results, the first skirmishes began over whether to conduct hand recounts in Long Island's close races.

Attorneys for Assemb. Marc Alessi (D-Shoreham) Monday obtained a court order from State Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Hazlitt Emerson setting a Nov. 15 hearing into Alessi's request for a hand recount. Alessi trails Suffolk Legis. Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham) by 890 votes, according to unofficial returns.

Losquadro's attorney, his brother Steven Losquadro, said a hand recount is not warranted because no evidence of machine error has been proven or even alleged.

In Nassau, Democratic Elections Commissioner William Biamonte asked GOP counterpart Carol Demaura Busketta to agree to a hand recount in the 7th Senate District race, where Sen. Craig Johnson (D-Port Washington) trails Mineola Mayor Jack Martins by 415 votes in unofficial returns.

"A 100 percent manual recount is appropriate to ensure - and assure the public of - the fairness and accuracy of the election outcome," Biamonte wrote.

Busketta called the request "ill-advised" and said "to do so would establish a dangerous and expensive precedent requiring such recounts simply on a political whim."

Attorneys for Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), who in unofficial results trails Republican Randy Altschuler by 383 votes, say they plan to ask a judge for a hand recount of the 1st Congressional District votes.

"We always say every vote counts," Bishop aide Jon Schneider said. "And this time every vote really counts."

Altschuler spokesman Rob Ryan said the campaign would reserve judgment on whether to agree to a hand recount.

Also Monday, confusion continued over why Suffolk's reported election night returns differed from the initial recanvassing conducted late last week. Unofficial election night returns showed Bishop leading Altschuler by 3,461 votes.

Bo Lipari, founder of New Yorkers for Verified Voting, said administrative errors may have led officials at election headquarters to confuse the order in which results were reported.

In last year's special election in the 23rd Congressional District upstate - the first in New York to use the new optical-scan machines - some results were transposed, state Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long said. "I don't think it was a conspiracy," Long said Monday. "I thought it was human error. I think the new machines are very hard to read."

Suffolk election officials declined to comment Monday, citing ongoing litigation.

As they prepare to go to court, the Bishop and Altschuler campaigns also are trying to determine for whom absentee voters cast their ballots.

Schneider said the Bishop campaign had about 30 people knocking on doors over the weekend trying to determine how voters cast ballots, including absentees. "I think both sides are trying to determine how the votes are going to break," he said.

Altschuler spokesman Rob Ryan said his campaign began calling absentee voters Monday. About 10,000 absentee ballots and 1,000 affidavit ballots remain uncounted.

In Yaphank, Suffolk officials selected 43 of Suffolk's 1,433 election machines - or 3 percent - to be audited for accuracy. If errors are found, officials will then audit 5 percent of the machines, then 12 percent, and if necessary all of them.

Auditors, who Monday examined two machines without finding any errors, are removing the ballots from each and comparing them to the machine's tape, which registered the results.

Elections officials said the state-mandated process could take as many as eight days to complete.

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