Suffolk elections officials on Friday began the lengthy process of counting the 16,690 absentee and affidavit ballots in the tightly contested countywide sheriff’s race, starting with the county’s smallest town, Shelter Island.
After day one, Democrat Errol Toulon Jr.’s unofficial 1,354- vote election night lead had grown to 1,427. The overall vote tally now stands at 141,117 for Toulon to 139,689 for Republican Larry Zacarese.
According to elections officials, Toulon gained 111 votes, while Zacarese added 37 votes to his tally and Peter J. Krauss, running on the Libertarian line, got two votes. There were also 38 challenges to individual ballots, 31 from Republicans and seven from Democrats, involving the sheriff or town races. The Republican and Democratic election commissioners will rule on them after the recount is complete.
Vanessa J. Herman, Zacarese’s director of communications, noted that Shelter Island has only four election districts and 1,048 ballots remain to be counted. “Our campaign remains energized. This is day one of what will certainly be a long process,” she said. “We remain extremely confident Larry Zacarese will be the next Suffolk County sheriff.”
Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman, noting that Republicans won the Shelter Island town board, said, “This speaks volumes on how well Errol did out there. This will see-saw back and forth day by day, but we’re pretty confident at day’s end Errol will be the next sheriff.”
Election officials say the next towns that will be reviewed will be Babylon and Smithtown.
The number of absentees swelled from 14,113 the day after election to 15,091 from ballots arrived by mail within seven days after the election. Election officials will also review another 1,599 in affidavit ballots, from those who could not use machines.
Of the the absentees, 6,168 were cast by Republicans, 5,330 from Democrats, while 1,072 came from voters of the Conservative and Independence parties, which endorsed Toulon. There are also 2,400 absentees from voters not aligned with any party. The remainder came from smaller parties.
Democrats, meanwhile, cast 596 affidavit ballots, Republicans, 476 while 120 came from the minor parties backing Toulon. Another 375 affidavit votes came from those unaligned to any party. The remainder came from smaller parties.