The NYS judge authorizes the counting of affidavit ballots in key House and State Senate races

A New York judge allowed two state election officials to count 1,200 affidavit ballots as scheduled Tuesday, upholding a revised state law that barred political candidates from interfering in the process.

State Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte issued his decision at 10 a.m. when Oswego County officials were scheduled to begin counting ballots, according to the Post-Standard. Officials in neighboring Onondaga County, where Syracuse is located, were scheduled to begin counting affidavit ballots by early afternoon.

An attorney for Republican Senate candidate Rebecca Shiroff argued Monday afternoon that a new state law that allowed election officials to examine ballots instead of party officials shouldn’t bar candidates from validating about 1,200 uncounted votes, the newspaper said.

Shiroff’s objection came when she was 396 votes ahead of Democratic state Senator John Mannion in New York’s 50th district, according to the outlet.

Senate candidate Rebecca Shiroff
GOP Senate nominee Rebecca Shiroff argued Monday that the state’s revised law should allow candidates to enter the election affidavit contest.
Shiroff for the Senate

A delay would also have delayed the full count in this close race, as well as the official certification of the NY-22 home district, where putative winner Brandon Williams, a Republican, was ahead of Democrat Francis Conole by about 4,000 votes.

The GOP had flipped four state seats, including the 22nd district, under the new district lines on Election Day and was a win away from regaining control of the House on Tuesday, with the 22nd already counted as a GOP win.

However, Conole has reportedly refused to back down to Williams, claiming countless affidavits and absentee ballots could yet affect the race.

    State Senator John Mannion
Attorneys for Democratic Senator John Mannion, who trailed Shiroff by 396 votes, argued the new measure was designed to place the process in the hands of bipartisan election officials.
Senator John W. Mannion

Affidavit ballots are cast by people who are eligible to vote but are unable to cast their ballot on Election Day because their name or address is missing or incorrect in the BOE logbook.

In the past, New York party leaders could individually object to affidavit ballots after learning from election officials the circumstances under which they were cast. Now, under a newly revised state law, election officials are required to check ballots themselves without input from party leaders, who still monitor the process but cannot object, the article said.

Shiroff’s attorney, John Ciampoli, argued that the language in the new measure was inaccurate and that it conflicted with an older section of the election law, which he said still allowed candidates to challenge the provisional ballots.

Scott DelConte, Justice of the State Supreme Court
State Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte ruled that affidavit ballots may be counted Tuesday morning.
Voting in New York
DelConte’s ruling affected the vote count in the tight home race between presumptive winner Brandon Williams, a Republican, and Democrat Francis Conole, who was yet to concede.
AFP via Getty Images

DelConte, a Democrat, seemed receptive to Ciampolis’ arguments Monday, asking loudly, “What is to prevent ballots that shouldn’t be cast and counted from being cast and counted when candidates are not allowed to attend the process?”

“It’s very challenging,” DelConte said, according to the article about settling the arguments. “We (review) a new law in summary proceedings.”

Lawyers for the election boards argued the law was designed to take politics out of the process. But the state election body, which is run by Republican and Democratic commissioners, was internally divided, with GOP officials agreeing with Shiroff that party leaders should be involved in counting ballots and Democrats disagreeing, according to the report.

Rebekah Shiroff
Shiroff’s objection came when she was 396 votes ahead of Democratic State Senator John Mannion in New York’s 50th Circuit.
Shiroff for the Senate

It’s not the first time DelConte has been forced to rule on the matter. Last January, he ordered a late review of more than 1,000 sworn ballots in the congressional district, holding up the results of the then-undecided race between Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi and his Republican challenger Claudia Tenney.

Tenney won the seat by a razor-thin margin and was elected last week to represent the state’s 24th congressional district amid this year’s contentious new election process.

A court-appointed expert created pro-Republican lines statewide after a judge ruled that Albany Democrats in the state Senate were attempting to illegally manipulate districts to obtain the party’s majority in a state delegation that shrank a seat, as New York loses population.

The results of the Shiroff-Mannion race, plus a yet-to-be-determined close race in Brooklyn’s 17th district, will determine whether Democrats retain their supermajority in the Senate. The NYS judge authorizes the counting of affidavit ballots in key House and State Senate races


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