Johnson draws closer, court hearing next

Johnson draws closer, court hearing next

Republican challenger Jack Martins held a 320-vote lead over Democratic incumbent Craig Johnson on Friday in the tight 7th state Senate District race that is headed for a court hearing on Monday as Democrats continue to call for a full ballot recount.

The 320-vote margin was the result of Johnson gaining 82 votes from what had been contested absentee ballots that were opened early this week. Republicans were seeking to open an additional 178 ballots against which Democratic board of election officials had registered “veracity challenges.” With a total of 395 other absentee ballot objections left to resolve, and 226 of those representing Republican registrants, Republican election attorney John Ryan said Martins is the clear winner.

“It’s mathematically impossible for [the Democrats] to overcome a 320-vote margin,” Ryan said.

But anticipating a Democratic challenge alleging unresolved issues with results from the continuing 3 percent statutory audit of voting machines, he added, “The judge will be the one making the ultimate decision.”

The only thing Republicans and Democrats were agreeing on about the results on Friday was that 320-vote margin.

Democratic Election Commissioner Willilam Biamonte said that two of nine voting machines initially examined as part of the 3 percent mandatory audit failed to produce results consistent with the paper ballots they contained. One machine showed a discrepancy of a single vote, but the second machine – from an election district in the contentious 7th state Senate District – showed a variety of mistakes that could not be logically explained, according to Biamonte.

“It has to be a scanner problem,” he said.

Late last week, Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Ira Warshawsky directed that the remaining five machines randomly selected as part of the county-wide audit from election districts in the Martins-Johnson balloting be audited before any other machines are audited. Biamonte said that if results from one more machine fail to match the paper ballot count, a 5 percent county-wide audit should follow. If a 5 percent audit revealed further anomalies, a 12 percent audit would ensue, followed by a full audit if the 12 percent screening turned up more questionable tabulations.

Attorney Steven Schlesinger, who represents Johnson, was set to press the court for a full hand recount on Monday, saying that he had heard there were other machine failures.

“It’ll be another 10 days to two weeks before it’s resolved,” Schlesinger said.

But Ryan said there were no results from the audit thus far that suggested any machine failures.

“There are no problems other that the issue of a ballot dropping in [a machine] where it should have been spit out,” he said.

With the majority in the state Senate at stake, Democrats are likely to muster all of the evidence they can of any irregularities turned up by the audit to justify a full recount – a process Warshawsky he said he would not order in the absence of “material” evidence during the last hearing in the case on Nov. 12.

Meanwhile, Johnson spoke for for the first time since the campaign ended through spokesman Rich Azzopardi who issued a statement saying “a significant number of ballots where the voters clearly marked their choice of candidates in the 7th SD race were not correctly tallied by the voting machines,” and suggested that 4,000 votes may be uncounted. “It is becoming increasingly clear that a hand vote may be the only way to ensure that every vote is counted,” Azzopardi’s statement concluded.

Asked how he had arrived at the figure of 4,000 potentially uncounted votes, Azzopardi said he had extrapolated from an audit sample that supposedly revealed a discrepancy of 40 ballots among machines that had been audited.

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