Madison County Voting Machines Impounded (NY)
Madison County Courier. November 4, 2009. By Martha E. Conway
Elections inspectors in Bridgeport and the town of Stockbridge packed up and went home after the polls closed last night without reporting voting numbers. Elections officials say it’s happened before, but last night there was a bigger hitch.
After the polls closed, Madison County’s voting machines were impounded.
Now local Madison County Board of Elections staff will have to wait until lawyers arrive before the results in those precincts will be known. The Bill Owens campaign (23rd U.S. Congressional District race) hired attorneys to file an injunction to keep anyone from touching the ballots, machines, or canvass sheets until legal representatives can be on hand to witness any interaction with the equipment or documents.
The reason for the intervention is because of the close race in the 23rd U.S. Congressional District, where the margin between Conservative Doug Hoffman and Democrat Owens apparently is too close to call.
“The 23rd Congressional race we knew was going to be close,” said Ann Jones of the Madison County Board of Elections. “A Sienna College poll last week had a 5-percent span between candidates with a 5-percent margin of error. So, essentially, at the end of last week, they were tied.”
According to Republican Elections Commissioner Lynne Jones, the same thing happened a few years ago in the 49th New York Senate District race between Democrat David J. Valesky of Oneida and Republican Nancy Larraine Hoffman.
“Candidates with close races, we feel really bad for them, but our hands are tied,” Lynne Jones said. “We are doing everything we can up to the point of the impoundment.”
Lynne Jones said there is no way of knowing when the impoundment may be lifted, but they are hoping it is soon.
In the town of Sullivan, 94 votes separate incumbent Republican Councilman David O. Miner from challenger Kerry Ranger, who appeared on the Democratic, Conservative and Independence party lines.
The polling place for the district not reporting, Sullivan 3, is Bridgeport Elementary School – Ranger’s neighborhood.
“In Sullivan 3, we have exactly 729 possible voters,” Ann Jones said. “Of those 729 voters, 205 are Democrats, 289 are Republican, 172 are blank or no party affiliation, 11 are Conservatives, and 41 are Independence.”
On top of the missing Bridgeport results, the Board of Elections mailed 166 absentee ballots to Sullivan voters. Only 111 of those have been returned as of Wednesday, Nov. 4.
In Brookfield, there was a problem with the way the numbers were called in, Lynne Jones said, so the numbers are off. There, too, everything is in a holding pattern until Board of Elections staff can access the appropriate documentation.
“We are waiting for the impoundment to be lifted, then we will go over everything and those results,” Lynne Jones said.
Preliminary results in Brookfield have incumbent John Salka (R,C,I) ahead by 30 votes for the office of town supervisor, and there are 27 absentee ballots out. Of those 27 distributed, 24 have been returned.
Lebanon’s town supervisor race is even closer, with incumbent Democrat James Goldstein, who also appeared on the Conservative and Independence party lines, ahead by fewer than 20 votes and 29 absentee ballots out. Ann Jones said 20 of those ballots have been received by the Board of Elections to date.
In Cazenovia, incumbent Democrat Kristi Andersen is ahead of challenger Walt Joncas by a narrow margin of 1,109 to 1,065, with 115 absentee ballots out, 84 of which have been returned so far.
“We are going over the call-in sheets, and if they are different from what is on the system, we go ahead and change it in the system,” Lynne Jones said. “All we do on the night of elections is take the reportable numbers off the machine – and that’s what we’re feeding to the public. Then we go back and get the write-ins, absentees, affidavits, and emergencies.”
Absentee ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 2 and received by Nov. 10 if from civilians, Nov. 16 if from enlisted men and women.
“We have 25 days to certify the results from the time of election,” Lynne Jones said. “As soon as we can, we will get going with [moving the process along]”
Ann Jones said absentee balloting tends to trend like machine voting. She said if 10 percent of the voters going to the polls are Republican, the same trend would be seen in the absentee ballots.
In the meantime, it is a waiting game.
“We have no idea when the machines will be released,” Ann Jones said.