State Senate Updates: December 20th Deadline Looms For Court Decisions as Grisanti-R Declared Victor in Buffalo
Lady Justice speaks…
Well…more more appropriately Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman of New York’s highest court.
In a recent order, he set clear deadlines for the courts hearing the cases involving recounts in the three contested state Senate races. And they are coming up very soon.
Also in the news is the apparent (we’ll see if it holds up) victory of Mark Grisanti upstate.
This update is from the Patch from upstate. With so little coverage locally on this monumental political debacle, you have to wonder just what the media are doing these days:
New York’s top judge on Thursday issued an order for full recounts in three tight state Senate races, and set a Dec. 20 deadline for state courts to resolve all three elections, which include a bid by GOP nominee Bob Cohen to topple Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer, D-Port Chester, in the 37th Senate District.
Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman was acting on a request by Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo to intervene in the races, which will decide the balance of power in the Senate and impact the fate of a range of legislation as well as efforts to balance a $10 billion deficit in next year’s state budget.
Lippman’s order requires the state Supreme Court to issue decisions in all three races by Dec. 6 and appellate courts by Dec. 15. The Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, will then hold a hearing on Dec. 20.
“I am in full agreement with [Cuomo] that swift judicial resolution of the legal issues presented in these matters is of critical importance,” Lippmann wrote, echoing Cuomo’s claim that drawn-out legal battles would paralyze state government and disenfranchise voters.
Democrats currently hold a 32-29 edge in the Senate with one vacancy. But all 62 seats were up for grabs this year, and the GOP has a 30-29 advantage coming out of Election Day. Two Republican victories in the outstanding races will give the GOP a 32-30 advantage next year; two Democratic victories will result in a split chamber that will have to forge some kind of power-sharing agreement.
As of Friday morning, it’s appearing increasingly likely that the GOP will win races on Long Island and in Buffalo. But, according to Cohen spokesman Bill O’Reilly, Oppenheimer is currently leading Cohen by 626 votes with 8,202 ballots left to be counted.
O’Reilly applauded Lippman’s directive, saying the state’s dire straits cannot be overshadowed by politics.
“These races need to be decided by Jan. 1. With a new governor and a new legislature coming in, and the state’s fiscal crisis, there’s not a minute to waste,” he said.
Election officials began counting emergency ballots, which are used by voters when machines malfunction, on Friday, O’Reilly said. Counting of absentee and military ballots will commence on Tuesday, and affidavit ballots will be counted after that. Affidavit ballots are used by voters whose registration is in dispute.
Meanwhile, a nail-biting race for three seats on the Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees could be decided as early as next week, according to Mayor Norman Rosenblum, and it looks as if Democrats may sweep those races and gain the upper hand on the five-member board. The election has been held up because of legal challenges in the 37th Senate District, which includes the village.
According to unofficial results from the County Board of Elections, Democratic incumbents Toni Ryan and John Hofstetter, along with newcomer Sid Albert, are leading GOP nominees Greg Sullivan, Mary Vozza and incumbent Marianne Ybarra by razor-thin margins.
If the final results are challenged and gridlock persists, Rosenblum said the village would be authorized to continue governing under the current board, on which Republicans hold a 3-2 advantage.
“There is no threat to the everyday administration or operation of the village, and there should not be any interruption,” he said, adding that the current board would likely refrain from making “any decisions that would bind the future board,” including appointments.
Rosenblum, who is technically not affiliated with a party but makes it no secret that he adheres to Republican ideology, said the implications of the race are far-reaching for the village. Democrats support countywide searches to fill positions at village hall and in the police department, while Rosenblum and Republican Trustee Louis Santoro believe that jobs should first be offered to Mamaroneck residents.
Rosenblum and Santoro also are firm supporters of the village’s relatively large volunteer fire department. Rosenblum said the Democrats favor considering a paid department. That is untrue, said Village Trustee Toni Ryan, a Democrat.
The mayor decried the manner in which the village was caught up in the Senate debacle, and wondered if problems with the new electronic voting machines would drive away voters in the future.
“If they were designing something not to work, they couldn’t have done a better job,” Rosenblum said of the election system, which has been criticized for its lack of privacy and the small print on ballots that frustrated some elderly voters.
Meanwhile, the Grisanti-Thompson election in Buffalo might be nearing an end. The Tonawanda News has declared the Republican the victor, which just might push the GOP over the line to take a majority:
All of the ballots have been counted in the hotly contested 60th state Senate District race, and the numbers indicate that challenger Mark Grisanti has held on to upset the incumbent, Democrat Antoine Thompson.
Grisanti’s lead stands at 527, or about 400 less than where it stood on Nov. 19 when his lead was at 951 with nearly 1,250 affidavit ballots remaining to be counted.
There are still affidavits contested by both sides, but State Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, told the Tonawanda News that the remaining disputed ballots aren’t enough to overcome the Republican Grisanti’s lead. Attorneys for both parties are expected to be in Niagara County court on Monday to address those remnants.
“Mark Grisanti is the senator-elect,” Maziarz said, adding he does not believe the Democrats will continue to pursue a recount. “Some ballots are being contested by both sides, but even if you count them all, it won’t make a difference.”
However, Democrats don’t appear ready to go down without a fight. The party still has questions it wants answered before the outcome is either certified by the board of elections or decided by the courts.
“Our concerns remain as they have been from the beginning,” said Senate Democratic Committee Spokesman Travis Proulx. “The sheer number of irregularities should concern any voter. Before any result can be determined we must get to the root of what caused this.”
Among the Democrats’ concerns are ballots from voting machines that had been taken out of service on election day but weren’t discovered until last Thursday, and memory sticks from the electronic voting machines that didn’t return numbers during a Nov. 15 recanvass of votes.
Democrats want answers on these and other issues, and they say the matter deserves high public scrutiny. Proulx notes that the result will affect guidelines for future vote discrepancies.
“No reason has been given why the numbers changed from election night,” Proulx said. “Our concern is the accuracy of that 527. The accuracy of that number has to be solid. Right now it’s not.”
Neither Thompson nor Grisanti have made a declaration in the race. Grisanti spokesman Doug Curella said they don’t plan to make any statement through the end of the week.
“We’re sticking by our (earlier) statement that we won’t accept victory until Sen. Thompson concedes, or Mark is declared the winner either by court of law or certified election results,” Curella said adding, “I don’t know if this is a good step forward but it’s definitely positive.”
Curella said the affidavits heading to court Monday are those that involve people who either voted at the wrong polling location or went to the correct place, but the wrong table. Most of the objections, Curella said, deal with votes at the wrong polling location.
Case law would seem to favor Grisanti in that scenario.
“History shows that if you go to the wrong polling location, the vote won’t count,” Curella explained. “If you went to the correct location but the wrong table, the vote will count.”
If the 60th District is certified as a Republican win, it would give the GOP 32 seats in the Senate, providing them with a majority. With one seat in Westchester County still undecided, the best state Democrats could hope for with a Grisanti victory is 30 seats.
We shall follow this all very closely…