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Altschuler Takes Lead in Congressional Race; Bishop Asks for Recount

Posted on 12 November 2010

After what appeared to be an unofficial victory for incumbent Congressman Tim Bishop on Election Day, a recanvass of voting machines in the First Congressional District has swung the lead in challenger Randy Altschuler’s favor by close to 400 votes.

Last Wednesday morning, unofficial tallies from the Suffolk County Board of Elections showed Bishop, a Democrat from Southampton, with a 3,500-vote lead over his Republican challenger, a businessman from St. James.

Altschuler’s camp was quick to state the election was “too close to call,” and when the board of elections tabulated the results from the voting machines directly, Altschuler took a 392-vote lead in the Congressional race last Friday.

This is the first time these voting machines have been used in a general election in Suffolk County.

Over 10,000 absentee ballots have yet to be counted in the race.

The way the board of elections collects its information on election night is via phone by poll workers who read the tallies for each race to the board, which then posts them online. After that, the board of elections downloads the results electronically from each voting machine, which in this case, was when Altschuler took the lead.

On Tuesday, Altschuler spokesman Rob Ryan said the discrepancy between Wednesday morning’s unofficial results and Friday’s results is likely due to human error.

Ryan said that poll workers’ unfamiliarity with the new system likely led to confusion in the numbers they reported back to the board of elections, and that it was not the integrity of the new voting machines.

“It’s all human error and this is what the audit will prove,” said Ryan.

Suffolk County Board of Elections Democratic Commissioner Anita Katz’s spokesperson Ivan Young declined to comment on the cause of the swing in ballots, saying he expects a state mandated audit will unearth the problem and that the board of elections is not commenting at this time because it is still unsure of what happened and expects litigation may be involved.

On Monday, the Suffolk County Board of Elections began an audit of a randomly selected three-percent of its machines to ensure the downloaded results are in fact correct, according to Young.

Young said 43 machines will be checked this week, comparing the scanned paper ballots with the electronic tally of results.

“It’s going slow,” said Young of the process. He said only three voting machines had been tabulated on Monday and Tuesday, and while he originally projected the audit to take eight days, it will likely go longer.

Should discrepancies be discovered, and not reconciled, Young said the audit will be expanded to include five percent of the district’s voting machines and if a discrepancy pops up once more, it will be further expanded to cover 12 percent. Only if problems are still discovered will the board of elections be required to perform a full district, paper ballot recount.

However, according to Bishop spokesman Jon Schneider, that does not go far enough in ensuring voters all their ballots have been counted correctly given the inconsistencies in reporting on election day and the results revealed later that week.

Bishop’s camp has called for a full recount of all district ballots, which Ryan said the Altschuler camp does not support. Ryan said it was too soon, and “jumping the gun” to assume a full recount, which would be costly, is necessary. The outcome of the audits should come first, he said, as is prescribed by state law and Ryan added he is confident the audit will show there were no issues with the new electronic voting machines.

According to published reports, Republican Suffolk County Board of Elections Commissioner Wayne Rogers, who did not return a call for comment, is opposed to a full recount, while Young said Commissioner Katz is in favor of a full, hand count of all paper ballots.

“The concept of the scanner is if there are discrepancies you always have the paper ballot,” said Young. “That was the intent of electing to use these scanners.”

On Tuesday, said Schneider, the Bishop camp intended to file a lawsuit with a Suffolk County judge to force the board of elections to proceed with a paper ballot recount of all votes by hand. As of press time, the suit had yet to be filed, but Schneider said it was imminent.

“Clearly things went wrong, clearly there are unanswered questions and fortunately we don’t need there to be,” said Schneider. “This is why Suffolk County chose machines with paper ballots.”

Schneider added that with 460 election districts within the First Congressional District, should just one ballot be misread electronically in each district, it could change who is in the lead for a seat in the United States House of Representatives.

“Literally, one vote per district changes the race, which is why there is such a great need to get this right,” he said.

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11 Responses to “Altschuler Takes Lead in Congressional Race; Bishop Asks for Recount”

  1. Liman says:

    They only audited three machines in a day? How many hours do they work? How many people are assigned to this? Are they taking it seriously? The integrity of this new system (which no one seems enthused about) is on the line. There’s no excuse for not having an answer by now.

    Also, since military ballots can arrive as late as 11/24, are they going to wait to count any absentee ballots until then?

    Let’s get with it, here.

  2. Tim says:

    I voted via mail-in, absentee ballot in mid October. When is it going to be counted ? Some of us criticize elections in foreign lands for seeming inept and then time after time, our own systems are found to just as bad in their own ways.

  3. Bob says:

    I was told by Mt. Sinai HS assistant principal and an unidentified blond-haired lady that I was not allowed to display my political signs even though I pointed out that I was about 50′ beyond the posted boundary signs. While they could not tell me what law or regulation I was, in their opinion, violating, they did threaten to call the police. The blond told me that the police would read me the law AFTER they arrested me.

    When I refused to leave, the assistant principal directed the blond to call the police and they left. About a half hour later, four police cars arrived. The signs had mysteriously disappeared. I agreed to move about 20′ away.

    My signs were in opposition Tim Bishop and two other candidates backed by the teachers union. I felt that Bishop’s supporters violated my civil rights and I suspect that they didn’t stop there by removing the polling place boundary signs. I wouldn’t be surprised if the results from the Mt. Sinai HS were called in inaccurately and that it was intentional. We’ll have to wait for the recount.

  4. jack says:

    lets change the rules so that all ballots (Even Military) must be in By Election Day! and lets count all of them On Election Day..if u need a recount have it done In A Week…i could do it with 5 people in 8 Hours! this is rediculous…lets see who Won already, one way or the other

  5. Greg says:

    So you report Bishop’s intial lead as “3,500″ when in actuality it was 3461 – no big deal except that at the same time you report Altschuler’s revised lead of 460 votes as “close to 400″ you reduce his lead by 13% and your bias is plainly revealed. You are supposed to REPORT the news, not create it.

  6. Kathryn Menu says:

    There are 460 election districts in the First Congressional District in New York. Altschuler’s own campaign placed his unofficial lead at 392, which is close to 400.

  7. Tim says:

    I am not seeing any reporting on when the board of elections is going to announce the final results. How long do we have to wait for the final results ? The election was two weeks ago !!!

  8. Turtora says:

    I discovered a website yesteday which appeared much such as this, are you convinced another person is not copying this specific site?

  9. Allen Fein says:

    Now that Randy Altschuler has spent millions of dollars in his second losing election to Tim Bishop, he has become quite well known and should be a welcome presence on any town board or other public position, given his intelligence and strong leadership skills. Trying to start off his political career in a congressional election was, in my opinion, too ambitious. I hope that he quickly gets elected here in the East End of LI… or even gets some appointment, to be able to start serving our community in an official capacity….. and I am a Democrat.

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