The first day of counting absentee ballots in the Schenectady mayor’s race went slowly, with just 148 ballots examined, because attorneys went back decades in their search for reasons to throw out votes.
By the end of the day, Acting Mayor and Democrat Gary McCarthy had picked up six votes, putting him 83 votes ahead of Alliance Party founder Roger Hull. On Election Day, McCarthy was winning by 77 votes.
But there are still 482 ballots to examine, including those from districts in which Hull won by huge margins.
And of the 148 ballots that were examined Wednesday, only two-thirds were actually counted. The rest were set aside because attorneys for McCarthy or Hull objected to them.
Many of the 52 ballots set aside will likely be counted at the end, when one side withdraws its objections or a judge decides which ones should be opened.
Attorneys typically withdraw their objections if it becomes clear that their candidate won’t get enough votes to win.
James Walsh, one of Hull’s attorneys, based many of his objections on slight differences in the voter’s signature on the voter registration card and the absentee ballot envelope.
“I question who actually signed that. I don’t believe it was the voter,” Walsh said repeatedly of ballots, mainly filed by Democrats.
Similarly, O’Keefe questioned a number of Republican ballots for incomplete applications.
At times, both acknowledged that they were simply trying to keep the other side’s ballots closed. In one case that had them both laughing, Walsh tried to save a ballot that was postmarked the day after the election.
Ballots must be postmarked before the election. But Walsh, who thought the ballot had a vote for Hull, argued that the postmark wasn’t quite clear enough to be sure it was mailed late.
The postmark could be read from an observer’s position several feet away. The attorneys and election commissioners laughed as they accepted the objection and set the ballot aside for further review.
Walsh wasn’t alone in his attempts. Twice, O’Keefe tried to save ballots that were in unsealed envelopes, a flaw as fatal as the late postmark. If the envelope isn’t sealed, anyone could have inserted a new ballot, and thus those ballots are almost never counted. Likewise, the Board of Elections routinely throws out late ballots.
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Categories: Schenectady County