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Recount begins in close LI Assembly race

GOP Assemb. Dean Murray, right. has conceded the

GOP Assemb. Dean Murray, right. has conceded the race for the 3rd District seat to Edward Hennessey, left. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan; David Pokress, 2012

Nassau and Suffolk elections officials began recanvassing ballots Wednesday including Long Island's tightest race, where GOP Assemb. Dean Murray's 36-vote election night lead over former Brookhaven Town board member Edward Hennessey, budged, but just barely.

Before the recanvassing for the 3rd Assembly District even started, Hennessey narrowed Murray's election night lead to 28 votes because a polling machine tabulator at a Medford election district broke down in the last two hours of balloting. When the machine was fixed, Hennessey picked up eight votes.

However, after recounting 10 of 72 election districts, Democrats said Murray, seeking his second full term, regained six votes giving him a 34-vote edge; Republicans said Murray gained five votes giving him a 33-vote margin.

In all, elections officials said there are about 2,400 absentee ballots to be counted, as well as about 700 provisional ballots, in the Assembly district. The recanvassing began at 3:30 p.m. and work stopped at 6 p.m. Officials could not say how long the rest of the recount, which will resume Thursday, will take.

Jesse Garcia, Brookhaven GOP chairman, said, "We're very very optimistic, Dean's lead is growing with every election district we go through." However, Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman, said Murray's lead will continue to shrink. "At the end of the day I believe Ed will be the winner."

In Nassau, William Biamonte, Democratic elections commissioner, said board workers began the scan of nearly 19,000 emergency ballots Wednesday morning and hope to have them completed Thursday. He said there are 10 bipartisan teams, each working on a machine at the same time.

Emergency ballots are those cast when there is a machine problem, such as no electricity to drive it. "Once we've scanned these ballots and done the machine count, we go on to the paper count -- affidavits and absentees," he said.

The board will "research" 25,000-plus affidavit ballots, confirming that they were cast by those eligible to vote despite their names not being on the election district's voter rolls. They will also ensure that those who cast provisional ballots were eligible to vote for all of the candidates they selected.

Biamonte said there are more than 31,000 Nassau absentee ballots to be verified and counted. While they can arrive as late as Saturday, they must be postmarked no later than Nov. 5.

He said it is "way too early" to project winners in two other close races. State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) has nearly a 3,600 vote lead over Democratic challenger Daniel S. Ross, and State Supreme Court Justice Peter Skelos in the Appellate Division has a 6,000-plus lead over Hope S. Zimmerman for the bi-county court post, according to the board's website.

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