Nassau judge declines to declare a winner in Oceanside Sanitation District commissioner's election

Tom Lanning, left, defeated Oceanside restaurant owner Mike

Tom Lanning, left, defeated Oceanside restaurant owner Mike Franzini by 42 votes when paper ballots were combined with about 1,600 votes from two voting machines rented by the sanitation district. (Credit: Facebook)

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A Nassau County state Supreme Court justice Wednesday declined to declare a winner in the disputed June Oceanside Sanitation District election after counting paper ballots in court and ruling that the fate of the two candidates should be determined by the district.

Justice Arthur Diamond oversaw the counting of 184 paper ballots, which have remained sealed since the June 19 election for Oceanside Sanitation District 7.

Diamond's count of the paper ballots, combined with tallies from Election Day, trimmed the lead of the front-runner, Oceanside Chamber of Commerce president Tom Lanning, from 98 to 42 votes.

After the count, Diamond said in a written order that he did not have the jurisdiction to declare a winner until the sanitation board reviews the ballots to certify the vote.

Diamond said he could intervene if the board was to take no action.

Lanning filed an injunction with the court last month to count the paper ballots in addition to about 1,600 votes cast on two voting machines rented by the sanitation district.

Lanning ran against restaurant owner Mike Franzini and a third challenger, Stephen Edmondson, for a five-year term to replace retiring sanitation Commissioner Fred Morse. The post pays $7,500 annually.

The paper ballots were sealed after an attorney for the sanitation district found that ballots cast on a voting machine had been miscalculated.

The machine's counter showed 138 more people entered the voting booth than actual votes cast. The two machines showed Lanning ahead by 98 votes over Franzini. Edmondson received a dozen votes.

Wednesday's courtroom count of paper ballots showed Franzini leading 116 to 60. Edmondson received one vote, and the seven remaining votes were either blank or disqualified.

With Lanning retaining the lead, his attorneys urged the judge to declare a winner and give an order to the sanitation board to certify the election.

Lanning's Uniondale-based attorney, Thomas Gary, said there were no objections to counting the ballots and no allegations that the voting machines were tampered with. He speculated that the board might not certify the election because they might not like the outcome of the vote.

"We do have a winner, at this time, there's nothing further for the court to determine," Gary said. "The clerk should certify the results and declare our candidate the winner."

However, an attorney for the Sanitation District, Jack Libert, said the revised margin raised questions about the voting machines and said the paper ballots might be more reliable. He said he favored the sanitation board reviewing the court's results.

The sanitation district had not commented on the judge's decision as of late Wednesday. No special district meeting to review the results has yet been set.

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