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No winner declared in district election for Oceanside Sanitation Board of Commissioners

No winner has been declared nearly a month after a special district election for a seat on the Oceanside Sanitation Board of Commissioners, with some paper ballots uncounted and some parties alleging mismanagement.

Thus far, the district hasn't declared a winner of the June 19 election among about 1,700 votes tallied. The district oversaw its own election and is tasked with certifying a winner.

Three candidates are vying for the seat of retiring Sanitation Commissioner Fred Morse. The commissioner post pays $7,500 per year. It is only the second contested election in nearly 30 years.

On election night, the initial tally of two voting machines showed Oceanside Chamber of Commerce president Tom Lanning about 98 votes ahead of Mike Franzini, owner of Farmer Joel's Restaurant. A third challenger, Stephen Edmondson, garnered about a dozen votes, according to Jack Libert, an attorney hired by the Oceanside Sanitation District 7 to review the election results.

Libert said he plans to present options to the board at some point next week. No meeting or date has been set. He said the options could range from certifying the current voting results, coming to an agreement on a recount, or holding a new election.

John Mannone, an Oceanside attorney who withdrew from the race before the election, is representing Lanning and said neither candidate can challenge the results until the board makes a ruling as to who won.

"Under the law, the Board of Commissioners are charged with holding elections and they totally mismanaged and delegated their authority to do it," Mannone said. "This level of shenanigans seems inappropriate for this community. It's a tremendous drawn-out process for a district election. They should've counted the votes and declared a winner."

In the weeks that followed the count, a tally on one voting machine showed a discrepancy of 130 more voters who entered the polling place than actual votes cast. A registration book showed 23 of the 1,726 votes cast were not accompanied by signatures, Libert said.

A box of about 184 paper ballots, cast by voters who did not appear on the initial registration rolls, was sealed and uncounted. The anonymity of the votes was also compromised when the voters' residency verifications were sealed in the same envelope as each ballot, Libert said.

"The two leading candidates have attorneys that have been in touch with us and there's a reasonable likelihood this could end in litigation," Libert said. "To avoid that would be best. The other possibility is a method of counting that would give comfort to the board."

The Sanitation District serves about 13,000 households and 950 businesses. It was heavily criticized for its services in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy. The special tax district's budget last year was $8.65 million. It collects about $600 in taxes from each home within the district.

Though the Nassau Board of Elections does not oversee special district elections or school board races, Democratic Commissioner Bill Biamonte said it is unusual the district would not use Nassau election machines.

Last year, the Board of Elections refused to provide or certify the machines because of a disagreement over ballots, Biamonte said.

Instead, the district rented voting machines from a company in Queens, Pull This! Election Machine Service Company Inc., Libert said.

Libert said the election machines were inspected prior to the vote by district election officials, who verified the machines were functioning and set to zero prior to the vote.

"I don't think we're the be-all, end-all, but I would feel more confident if the machines came from the Board of Elections," Biamonte said.

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