The attorney for Republican congressional candidate Randy Altschuler told State Supreme Court Justice Peter H. Mayer today that the campaign is investigating possible voter fraud in the still-undecided First Congressional District race.
Vincent J. Messina told the court there are about 750 absentee ballots on which the Altschuler camp has "residency concerns," meaning the voters have two residence addresses and Altschuler's legal team is investigating whether the voters in question were simultaneously registered to vote at two addresses, which is prohibited by state law. Objections relating to residency concerns would not be dealt with before then, he said.
According to a Fox News report, 48 voters out of 438 whose ballots were challenged had dual registrations. One of those voters reportedly voted in Manhattan on Election Day after having filed an absentee ballot in Suffolk County.
"That's something the D.A. will have to deal with," said Bishop spokesman Jon Schneider after the court appearance. "There's no evidence or even any allegation that this was a widespread occurrence."
But Altschuler spokesman Rob Ryan said the Altschuler campaign believes the issue is indeed much more widespread.
"That's been our belief all along," Ryan said this afternoon, "that numerous people who cast absentee ballots are registered to vote in more than one location." Many residents on Bishop's East End home turf are part-time residents who have homes in New York City or elsewhere, he said.
There's no disputing that, Schneider concedes. "For instance, the state Republican chairman Ed Cox lives and works and owns a house in New York City but is registered to vote in Westhampton," Schneider said. Yet his wife, Tricia Nixon Cox, is registered to vote in Manhattan, according to Schneider. "Following [Altschuler's] logic, we should be investigating the state GOP chairman, too." Schneider said.
"Let's get the votes counted. Enough is enough already," Schneider said.
The judge told the attorneys he will be at the Board of Elections Yaphank headquarters tomorrow at 3 p.m. to begin ruling on the ballot objections raised by each side. He asked the lawyers for all involved to do everything possible to whittle down the pool of contested ballots before then.
Attorneys for Bishop and Altschuler told Judge Mayer they had agreed to set aside objections on 200 ballots, which will be counted this afternoon and expected to waive objections to another 200 tomorrow morning.
The county's two elections commissioners will have make "an administrative finding" on the objections before the matter is "ripe" for judicial review, Messina said in court today.
Bishop's co-counsel Thomas Garry asked the court to direct the commissioners to make their determination expeditiously, but the judge declined to issue such an order.
"It goes without saying that everyone is interested in the expeditious conclusion of this matter," Mayer told the attorneys. "The people of the First Congressional District are entitled to know who won this race as soon as possible, in the interest of democracy," the judge said.
"I will be at the Board of Elections on December the first at 3 p.m to commence judicial review," Mayer said, before adjourning the conference till Tuesday, Dec. 7.
Remaining military ballots tip in Altschuler's favor
Altschuler picked up 20 votes this morning as Suffolk elections workers counted the last outstanding absentee ballots at BOE headquarters in Yaphank. Of the 71 military ballots opened today, 44 went to Altschuler to 24 for incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop. Three ballots contained no vote in the congressional contest.
Neither side challenged any of the remaining military ballots, which arrived at BOE headquarters after elections workers finished counting absentee ballots last Tuesday. Overseas military ballots were allowed until close of business Nov. 24 to arrive at BOE headquarters and be counted in the election, so long as they were postmarked by Nov. 1.
"The enrollment of those ballots was four to one Republican," Schneider said. "We thought we'd do much worse."