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Dec 7, 2010 5:46 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Bishop Maintains Slim Lead As Race Crawls Toward Conclusion

Dec 7, 2010 5:46 PM

The last undecided congressional race in the nation continued to inch toward resolution this week, as the campaigns for U.S. Representative Tim Bishop and his challenger, Randy Altschuler, whittled down the number of outstanding challenged ballots in a series of compromises.

Still, neither side this week would venture to say when a winner in the 1st Congressional District race would be declared.

On Tuesday morning, Mr. Bishop, a Democrat from Southampton, was leading Mr. Altschuler, a Republican from St. James, by 267 votes, according to Mr. Altschuler’s campaign, or 274 votes, according to Mr. Bishop’s supporters. The campaigns have reported slightly different numbers throughout the counting process, which started last month, and the Suffolk County Board of Elections has not yet released an official count.

The estimated 1,000 outstanding ballots are absentee and affidavit ballots whose legitimacy has been questioned by one of the two campaigns, with most challenges being leveled by Mr. Altschuler’s supporters. On Tuesday, the campaigns agreed to drop 50 challenges each, according to Jon Schneider, a spokesman for Mr. Bishop, who said those ballots could shift the results slightly in either direction.

Tuesday’s compromise is the latest in a series of similar deals struck since election workers finished counting absentee and affidavit ballots on November 23.

Also this week, the commissioners of the Board of Elections, Republican Wayne T. Rogers and Democrat Anita S. Katz, finished their review of the remaining contested ballots, according to both campaigns. The split decisions they issued will be passed on to State Supreme Court Justice Peter H. Mayer, who was scheduled to return to Board of Elections headquarters in Yaphank on Wednesday morning.

Late last week, Justice Mayer ruled on several absentee ballots that were not sealed properly in their envelopes, according to both Rob Ryan, a spokesman for Mr. Altschuler, and Mr. Schneider, although neither knew how many ballots were thrown out and how many were counted.

On Wednesday, Justice Mayer was slated to begin considering challenges based on questions of voter residency, which comprise the bulk of the outstanding ballots, according to the campaigns. Mr. Altschuler’s campaign saw an opportunity in its residency challenges, many of which were leveled against East End residents who have primary homes in New York City, according to Mr. Ryan.

“I think we’re paying close attention to them, because there are obviously a lot of situations here where people are voting illegally, and it’s that plain and simple, and that is wrong,” he said. “It’s not only wrong, it’s a crime. It’s a felony.”

Mr. Ryan said Mr. Altschuler’s legal team has spent recent days compiling evidence that the voters in question consider their New York City homes to be their primary residences. For instance, some voters have a long history of voting in New York City rather than the East End, while others have various official documents filed under their city addresses, he said.

“Are they breaking the letter of the law? In some cases they are,” Mr. Ryan said, adding that, in more cases, the absentee voters in question were “breaking the intent of the law.”

Mr. Schneider, on the other hand, dismissed that argument, saying “New York law is pretty clear and established” that someone with two homes can choose where they cast their ballots. “I think a lot of this falls under the realm of hyperbole,” he said.

Last Wednesday, December 1, Justice Mayer set up a makeshift courtroom in a conference room at the Board of Elections warehouse and began considering arguments over the contested ballots. His first act was to rule that 161 paper ballots that were not scanned on Election Day for technical reasons should be counted, adding 12 votes to Mr. Bishop’s lead, over the protests of Mr. Altschuler’s campaign.

Mr. Altschuler’s attorney, Vincent J. Messina, argued that the ballots could have been tampered with, because election workers did not seal them properly in bags on Election Day, and thus they should not be counted. But Justice Mayer eventually sided with Mr. Bishop’s campaign, stating: “Actions by the board, ministerial actions or errors, should not be used to disenfranchise the voter, absent some objective evidence of fraud.” At the same time, Justice Mayer granted Mr. Messina’s request that the ballots be set aside after they are counted, in case they need to be reviewed again during a future appeal.

Mr. Messina had told the judge that he had no reason to believe the ballots were tampered with, but he said a “chain of custody” could not be established, leaving open the possibility of fraud in the time before the ballots were delivered to Board of Elections headquarters after the polls closed on Election Day.

During that hearing, Mr. Messina suggested that Mr. Altschuler may choose to concede at some point, saying, “We may reach certain mathematical conclusions.”

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Leave us alone, Outsourcer. Go screw some other district.
By razza5351 (551), East Hampton on Dec 7, 10 4:24 PM
2 members liked this comment
Unhappy Randy
So much money, so few votes
(INDIA loves him)
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Dec 7, 10 5:31 PM
2 members liked this comment
Altschuler is hitting a big LOW and if he even tries to run again in 2012 this FALSE accusation of fraud completely blows his chances (along with the over 10,000 American people who's jobs he sold to Asia- who will start to REALLY speak out in the next two years about Altschuler's cruel profit driven activities). I am sure he knows this and is desperate to play any game to try and get elected! Randy you are trying to take away the people's rights. I know several people who's VALID affidavit votes ...more
By SunriseHwy (14), Mattituck on Dec 7, 10 5:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
If and when Randy should run again, Sunrise, please remember how you feel today and act accordingly. I will.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Dec 7, 10 8:59 PM
I really like SunriseHwy. Go Girl.
As a real local (even if I don't maintain primary residence I still have Southampton in my heart) I feel it is sad to see a carpetbagger in the East End. Do you remember when the Republicans screemed bloddy murder back in the late '60's when Robert Kennedy ran for election in NY? So I think Altschuler is a carpetbagger and a flip flop. It is so unpatriotic to own a business built on outsourcering jobs.
I know Tim personally and we think he is most sincere ...more
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Dec 7, 10 9:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
Where's Katherine Harris when she's needed? >;}
By Jean (79), whb on Dec 7, 10 9:31 PM

Hey, what's all this bitchin' about? Randy bought tthe election. He spent his money and in Repub logic we know he should get the spoils. After all, Republican Supremes declared corporations are legal persons (1880) and legal persons have freedom of speech, their money is speech as much as any corporate adverb, or human gutteral aarg! Hence, let us be reasonable and recognize our future in a Republican world: one dollar, one vote. Hey, Republican dollars deserve as much liberty and freedom as ...more
By mo (89), Sag Harbor on Dec 8, 10 1:59 AM
It's over. Randy has conceded. I'm grateful.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Dec 8, 10 10:03 AM
Thank you Randy.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Dec 8, 10 10:16 AM
I said that when this was finished, I'd be ready to congratulate both candidates on running a vigorous, reasonably fair race, and I do. They both took the issues out for a good airing, and that's what we always need. Best wishes to Tim in carrying on with the good job he's been doing, and to Randy in whatever is next for him.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Dec 8, 10 10:26 AM