AMSTERDAM -- After a count of most of the absentee ballots Tuesday, none of the unofficial winners on election night in Montgomery County have changed. But election officials have said it could be as late as Nov. 27 before official vote totals are released.
Terrance Smith, Montgomery County Republican election commissioner, said there are still some absentee ballots, less than 50, that can't be tabulated using the election computer system, and will need to be hand counted.
"They were ruled that they needed to be hand counted because the markings were not sufficient for the tabulator to [scan them], so they've been set aside for a bi-partisan team to count those votes, and they've been counting those votes by hand," Smith said.
Smith said changes to election law required all of the county Board of Election offices in New York state to submit a report regarding all of the votes cast to the New York State Board of Elections by Nov. 15 in order to prevent voters from voting in multiple districts.
"Prior to the early voting system we could actually count our absentees much sooner. The problem is now with the early voting we've allowed voters from one county to be registered in another county, without having to re-register, so we have to keep up with all of that," Smith said. "So, the state, with everything being dumped on [the electoral system] in such a short time, was not able to create a system to keep track of people who may have crossed county lines and tried to vote twice, so we have to do all of this manually."
Smith said the New York State Board of Elections provided Montgomery County with a report Monday showing none of its votes had been cast by anyone also voting in another jurisdiction, which allowed the elections board to begin its process of determining which absentee ballots needed to be hand counted.
On Tuesday the elections board released an updated vote summary, which included the absentee votes counted Tuesday, but did not break out the total number of absentee voters per election district.
The Amsterdam mayor's race widened slightly with challenger Democratic Party candidate Michael Cinquanti receiving 1,743 votes, up 86 from election night, for 56.96 percent of the total vote. His opponent, incumbent Republican Mayor Michael Villa, received 1,317 votes.
In Amsterdam's 1st Ward Common Council race, incumbent Patrick Russo expanded his lead over challenger Ken Mazur. After adding absentee votes, Russo had 460 votes, up 28 from election night, or 50.33 percent of the total vote. The unofficial total in the election summary provided by the county elections board gives Russo a six-vote victory margin.
Mazur issued his concession statement on Facebook Tuesday.
"I received notification of the outcome of my race for alderman, 1st Ward. The final tally placed me behind by six votes," Mazur stated in the social media post. "I wish to thank all that voted for me and supported my campaign financially. Your support made this a very close race indeed. Congratulations to Mr. Russo. I wish him much success!"
"I would like to thank everyone who voted for me and their continued support," said Russo in a Tuesday statement. "I look forward to another two years of making positive progress in the City of Amsterdam."
In Amsterdam's 2nd Ward, challenger Democrat David Gomula unofficially received 239 votes, up 12 from election night, or 50.42 percent of the total vote. He held a five-vote lead in the unofficial count over incumbent Republican Paul Ochul, who received 234 votes, up 13 votes from election night.
Gomula said he was hesitant to run for office when he first made his decision in March, but he's grateful voters appear to have picked him.
"Now's when the real work starts because my phone is going to be ringing off the hook," he said.
In the 3rd Ward, incumbent Democratic Alderwoman Irene Collins appears to have won the unofficial vote total by a slimmer margin than on election night. Collins received 325 votes, up 16 from election night, or 50.39 percent. She maintained a five-vote lead over Republican Kim VanWormer, who received 320 votes, up 18 from election night.
In Amsterdam's 4th Ward, challenger Republican Stephen Gomula is the unofficial winner, receiving 213 votes, up 7 from election night, or 53.79 percent of the vote. He maintained a 32-vote unofficial lead over incumbent Democrat David Dybas, who received 181 votes, up 11 from election night.
Although the vote margins remain tight in the three council races, Smith explained there is no automatic recount mechanism in New York state election law. He said 3 percent of all of the ballots in an election are hand counted as part of a mandatory election audit, but the only way a hand recount of all of the ballots would happen would be if one of the candidates obtained a court order requiring it.
Smith said a full statistical report of all of the voting, including party affiliation of voters by district, will be available at the elections board after Dec. 1.