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Judge: 11 of 22 disputed ballots in Brookhaven council race valid

Board of Elections administrators Cathy Schatzger, left, and

Board of Elections administrators Cathy Schatzger, left, and Phil Regan, second left count remaining ballots in Brookhaven Fourth District Council race between Democrat Connie Kepert and Republican Michael A. Loguercio Jr., as lawyers and election officials look on in Yaphank. (Dec. 10, 2013) Photo Credit: Ed Betz

Republican challenger Michael A. Loguercio Jr.'s lead over Democratic incumbent Connie Kepert narrowed Tuesday, after votes were counted in an unresolved Brookhaven Town council race following a court challenge.

Loguercio held a five-vote lead after Kepert made a net gain of 11 votes when 19 ballots were opened Tuesday at the Suffolk Board of Elections in Yaphank. Kepert won 15 votes and Loguercio won four.

Officials said they would meet Wednesday to review the vote and possibly certify the results. Attorneys and election officials were discussing the vote at 6 p.m. Tuesday, hours after the vote count appeared to have been completed.

Earlier in the day, State Supreme Court Justice Carol MacKenzie ruled on 22 ballots that had been challenged by Democratic and Republican officials. In a 12-page decision, MacKenzie ruled 11 votes were valid and should be counted, and ruled 11 others were invalid.

Democratic attorneys said they may appeal parts of MacKenzie's decisions to the state Appellate Division in Brooklyn. A hearing in that court is expected next week.

"This case definitely shows that every vote does count," said Kepert's attorney, Jared Kasschau, referring to the close vote. He added he is considering an appeal because, "There are certain votes that should be canvassed or counted."

MacKenzie threw out 11 ballots because of questionable signatures, "extraneous" vote markings and, in one case, because election workers apparently mishandled an absentee ballot. She wrote that the absentee vote should be discounted because of questions over the chain of custody and whether the ballot was properly marked. "The ballot's integrity was not protected," MacKenzie wrote.

A total of 48 votes in the Kepert-Loguercio race had been challenged by Democratic and Republican officials. MacKenzie did not rule on 26 votes because attorneys agreed to accept or reject them during the three-day hearing, which concluded on Monday.

Officials also have challenged about 53 ballots cast in the Suffolk County 6th District Court race between Conservative Party candidate Barbara Lynaugh and Democrat Chris A. Kelley. Lynaugh trailed Kelley by 22 votes.


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