Update: Republicans celebrate apparent victory in minor party primaries

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09/14/2011 5:23 PM |

The results were long in coming, but for the GOP, the wait was worth it.

A computer glitch gumming up the count prevented the Suffolk Board of Elections from announcing the results of Tuesday’s Southold judicial primaries until Wednesday afternoon. Those numbers, as yet still unofficial, show Republican Town Justice Rudolph Bruer winning a lopsided victory against Democratic challenger Brian Hughes.

In the Conservative primary, Mr. Bruer bested Mr. Hugh, a fellow registered Republican, 114 to 23. In the fight for the Independence Party line, the incumbent again prevailed, 74 to 18.

While the GOP was in a celebratory mood, Democrats are not ready to concede. Town Democratic leader Art Tillman said those numbers don’t match his primary day discussion with likely voters.

“I know for a fact that I got seven Conservative votes for Brian Hughes in two districts,” the chairman said. He added that Democratic supervisor candidate Robert Meguin knows of five people from two of Southold’s 19 election districts who supported Mr. Hughes.

“In the 15 other election districts Brian Hughes got six votes? Impossible,” Mr. Tillman said. “I’ve been at this stuff for 40 years and I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Mr. Tillman said he sees no evidence of election wrongdoing.

“I’m not accusing anybody of anything,” he said. “But we know that they had a heck of a lot of problems with the machines. We could graciously accept defeat, but not with these numbers. There’s obviously something wrong with the machines.”

The GOP leader believes the numbers accurately reflect the electorate’s support for the incumbent.

“I spoke with people in both parties,” he said. “They don’t like people trying to damage the reputation of a good guy like Rudy. People told us they’re not into negative campaigning.”

The Board of Elections routinely recounts election night results before declaring a winner.

With a light turnout, both sides expected a short night. Republicans waited in vain for the results at Mr. Bruer’s Southold law office while Mr. Hughes kept vigil in Southold home. At one point late in the evening News12 showed Mr. Bruer up 4 to 0. “What inning?” one onlooker quipped.

At midnight the Republicans turned off the lights and went home.

According to one poll inspector, the county used the Southold primaries to test the full capacity of the electronic voting machines first used in last year’s general election. Rather than rely on the numbers printed on paper rolls in the back of the machines, inspectors removed the digital data cards and brought them to BOE headquarters in Yaphank. But the cards apparently held faulty information or none at all.

The elections board tallied the votes by inspecting each of the paper ballots fed into the voting machines and the totals printed out on adding machine-like paper rolls.

“I’m scared when it comes to November,” Mr. Noncarrow said of the computer problems. “This is ridiculous.”

On that topic, Mr. Tillman agrees.

“We’re not dealing with huge numbers here,” he said. “Come on.”

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