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Absentee ballots being counted in GOP congressional race

Stephen Labate, left, and Grant Lally, right, both

Stephen Labate, left, and Grant Lally, right, both GOP primary candidates for New York's 3rd Congressional District, pose for portraits on May 13, 2014.

Absentee ballots are being counted in the tight Republican 3rd Congressional District primary race between attorney Grant Lally and financial planner Stephen Labate, but it could take several more days for results to be certified, Nassau and Suffolk election officials said Wednesday.

Suffolk Board of Elections workers finished counting about 200 absentee ballots Wednesday and Nassau was expected to start tallying its 300 absentee ballots Thursday, election officials in both counties said. New York City election officials also finished counting 87 absentee ballots from the northeast Queens portion of the district.

Lally, 52, of Lloyd Harbor, declared victory following the June 24 primary after leading Lebate by 110 votes, but Lebate, 46, of Deer Park, said he wouldn't concede until absentee votes were tallied.

On Tuesday, Lally, who worked for George W. Bush during the 2000 Florida recount, filed a request with State Supreme Court in Mineola, seeking to delay the count to establish "judicial supervision over the counting process."

Lally has requested that any contested ballots be consolidated and taken up by a Nassau State Supreme Court judge, rather than separate judges for each county. Lally said in an email he requested Nassau because it was the largest portion of the district.

Wednesday, Judge Arthur M. Diamond ruled that the count should go on as planned, but noted in a court order that all contested ballots be "maintained and preserved" for "possible future" proceedings. A second hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday before Judge Dana F. Winslow.

Lally said the filing aimed "to protect the rights of all voters," by preserving "any ballots challenged by the Board of Elections so that they can be brought in front of a judge for review."

Labate campaign spokeswoman Elizabeth Hagan said, "We just want to ensure every vote is counted, without any legal shenanigans."

Both candidates are looking to unseat Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) in the November general election.

The district covers much of Long Island's North Shore, including northwestern Suffolk, northern Nassau and a portion of northeast Queens.

After the district's 614 precincts were counted on primary night, Lally led Labate 3,195 to 3,085. But, district residents requested 1,983 absentee ballots, which had to be postmarked by June 23 and received by July 1.

Though Lally lives in Nassau and has strong ties to Nassau politics, and Labate lives in Suffolk, where he campaigned heavily during his 2012 race against Israel, neither candidate won his home county.

Instead, Lally beat Labate 55.2 percent to 44 percent in Suffolk and Labate trumped Lally 51.8 percent to 47.6 percent in Nassau. In Queens, Lally won 51.1 percent to 48.8 percent.

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