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Unofficial count shrinks Suozzi lead to 107 votes

Tom Suozzi, left, speaks at Democratic headquarters in

Tom Suozzi, left, speaks at Democratic headquarters in Uniondale. Ed Mangano at his headquarters in Westbury. The recount to determine of the winner of the heated battle for Nassau County executive begins Monday. (Nov. 3, 2009) Credit: Left: Mahala Gaylord; right: Pablo Corradi

Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi's lead over challenger Edward Mangano is down to 107 out of nearly a quarter-million votes cast after Nassau elections officials did an unofficial recanvassing of the machine count, Democratic Elections Commissioner William Biamonte said Monday.

The count change - Suozzi led Mangano by 237 votes last week - corrects key-punching errors typical to frenzied election nights, Biamonte said.

The task now for Democratic and Republican Board of Elections officials is to reach a final count upon which both sides can agree. To that end they are rechecking the results from 1,300 voting machines, one by one.

"We all agree that we have to have an accurate number," Biamonte said. "If the Republicans have one number and we have one number, then we have to start all over."

The recanvassing started at 2 p.m. Monday and is expected to last through the week, Biamonte said. For each machine, one Democratic and one Republican election official stands by as the number of votes for each candidate in every race on the ballot - not just Suozzi and Mangano - is read and reread aloud.

For instance, at one point Monday afternoon at each machine, one person read - "Row 1A, 240 votes; row 1B, 220; row 1C, 30; row 1D, 0." - while the other compared the key-punched numbers from last week. If there was a difference, the machine's figures won. Discrepancies will be argued once the recanvassing is complete.

Even after the machine count finishes, there also are 7,159 unopened absentee ballots still to be counted and more than 1,000 affidavit and emergency ballots. Tuesday is the final day the Board of Elections can receive absentee ballots, which require a postmark on or before Nov. 2.

Under state law, the county must certify election results by Nov. 27, though a lawsuit challenging such results could drag on much longer. In Minnesota, after the November 2008 election, it took until July for Democrat Al Franken to be determined the winner of the U.S. Senate seat.

The countywide recanvassing is the first since 2006, when a judgeship changed hands after election night. It has led to unprecedented security procedures, including new surveillance cameras in the canvass room to watch for tampering and a 24-hour Nassau police detail for the machines and absentee ballots.

Mangano appeared at the Board of Elections Monday afternoon but left without making any comment. Suozzi did not appear.

With John Valenti

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