A victor in the 46th Senate District likely won’t be declared until December at the earliest.
Lawyers for Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, and Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk met in Supreme Court, Montgomery County, Friday to determine how and when absentee and affidavit ballots will be counted.
Tkaczyk currently has a 139-vote lead in the race for the seat, which includes parts of Montgomery, Schenectady and Albany counties, but more than 10,000 absentee and affidavit votes are uncounted.
Counting of paper ballots will begin on Nov. 19 in Albany County, with Greene County starting the next day and Montgomery County the day after that. The Thanksgiving holiday pushed Schenectady County’s start to Nov. 26 and Ulster County will begin the following day. Because of Hurricane Sandy, Gov. Andrew Cuomo required county boards of elections to accept absentee ballots until the 19th, which is delaying this process.
Based on the schedule ordered by Judge Guy P. Tomlinson, each county will have one day initially to count paper ballots, with the possibility of more days starting on Nov. 28. Multiple counties will not be counting at once, which was a request of the candidates’ attorneys, who argued that this process will allow one lawyer for each side to oversee the entire process and ensure uniformity in objections.
“I don’t have folks I could put at tables,” said Amedore attorney David Lewis, as an additional objection to counting multiple counties at once. His legal team also includes Michael Cuevas and James Walsh, who were involved in counting paper ballots in the recent Republican Primary for the 43rd Senate District, where multiple counties counted paper ballots at once.
Schenectady County Board of Elections Democratic Commissioner Brian Quail expressed reservations in court about this timetable, estimating that it would take seven to eight days to count the more than 900 paper ballots in Schenectady County. There are at least three times as many paper ballots in Ulster County and about twice as many in Albany and Greene counties.
If each county took seven days to count paper ballots the process would stretch past Christmas.
Tkaczyk attorney Frank Hoare suggested multiple counts could be ongoing in the county at once, but Lewis stressed that he couldn’t cover multiple tables.
“I think we should try [one table] and see before we decide we can’t possibly do it,” Lewis said.
Earlier in the proceeding he noted that he has been involved in races where more paper ballots were counted and they were done by Thanksgiving. Lewis added that he doesn’t anticipate many objections to the paper ballots, which could contribute to a speedy process. “Maybe I’m out of my mind,” he said of his expectations for the proposed timetable.
After the court proceeding, Hoare said he thinks the timetable and process will expedite things and serve the public good. “I think it is very doable,” he said of plans to finish by early December.
Democratic Albany County Board of Elections Commissioner Matt Clyne argued that Albany County should be allowed to start counting its paper ballots on Nov. 14, as they had planned, and count additional absentee ballots that trickle in some time after Nov. 19. He said it was completely unnecessary to delay the process.
Tomlinson wondered why they shouldn’t start on the 14th. Lewis countered that starting then would lead to more objections for the court to hear. By starting on the 19th, he said it would give attorneys on each side a chance to determine the eligibility of the absentee and affidavit voters ahead of time.
“When we count them shouldn’t really matter,” Lewis said of Clyne’s complaint. “We put them first on the list.”
In order for the attorneys to review absentee and affidavit ballots and registration information for those voters, the five county boards of elections were required to submit paper copies of this information to each attorney. Montgomery County Board of Elections Republican Commissioner Terrance Smith is hoping each side can use digital copies of the information, because of the cost of making copies.
“The county is already under a tight budget,” said Smith, who estimated that copying costs for the county would easily exceed $600.
Tomlinson ruled that digital copies will be acceptable if there isn’t a loss of quality.
Neither candidates’ attorneys suggested that there were any irregularities with the votes cast in this race.
Next week all five counties are required to run audits of the voting machines and review a small percentage of the votes cast to ensure they match up with the unofficial results.