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Over-votes in Nassau election districts questioned

Candidates for Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, Ed

Candidates for Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, Ed Mangano, and Steve Hansen debate at Hofstra University. (Oct. 27, 2009) Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

A lawyer for Nassau County Democrats said Friday that the party's legal team is investigating over-votes in some districts and may actually call for a new election if there are enough votes in question.

"We are ascertaining whether the number of votes on the machines reflect the number of people who actually signed in to vote," attorney Steven Schlesinger said. "We know there are instances of more votes in an election district than people who signed in. We are investigating."

Schlesinger said his team is counting 20 poll books to see if there are over-votes, adding, "We selected ones where we thought there were public counter discrepancies." He said reconciliation between the poll books and machine is not usually done. "It's a ton of work."

His comments came after a brief court session in which lawyers for Democrats and Republicans informed Justice Edward McCarty of State Supreme Court in Mineola of the ballot count, and recount, to date for county executive and three other contests.

The attorneys said Republican challenger Edward Mangano had a 459-vote lead over Democratic incumbent Thomas Suozzi in the race for county executive, and Republican challenger George Maragos had a 948-vote lead over incumbent Democrat Howard Weitzman in the race for county comptroller.

Schlesinger cited a 51-41 difference between votes on a machine and voters who signed in at a Malverne election district. He said there are a number of court decisions and the key is whether the questionable votes are enough to change the election results.

"The question is whether the number of votes in the machine which are in excess of those that should be are sufficient to affect the outcome of the election. For instance, if we find 200 more votes than there should be and Suozzi or Mangano lose by 100, we may have a do-over."

Asked if he meant those districts would be a "do-over," he said, "The whole election is a do-over."

However, another Democratic attorney, Thomas Garry, representing Democratic Elections Commissioner William Biamonte, told the judge that the Malverne incident was the only case so far of an over-vote.

Garry said that happened because Board of Elections workers mistakenly allowed voters to sign in and then use either of two machines, apparently unaware that there were different local races on the ballots in them.

He added that there was legal precedent for allowing those votes to be counted for countywide races, even if the vote for the local race was voided.

Mangano said Schlesinger was "grasping at straws. It's a desperate tactic. It will be difficult to overcome a 459 plurality. Let's move this election along and find out how the people voted."

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