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The wave of voters that President-elect Donald Trump rode into office this Election Day extended into Southold Town, where Mr. Trump won by slightly more than the same margin as Mitt Romney did in the 2012 election, according to preliminary election results. READ

11/05/10 9:19pm
11/05/2010 9:19 PM

Randy Altschuler

A  recount by the Suffolk County Board of Elections now has Congressman Tim Bishop’s Republican challenger Randy Altschuler pulling ahead by about 400 votes in the race for New York’s 1st Congressional District, according to both camps.
After polls closed Tuesday, the BOE listed Mr. Bishop as having nearly a 3,500 vote lead over Mr. Altschuler. However, a recanvassing of the machines show that Mr. Altschuler now has a slight lead.
The results shifted after the Board of Elections finished downloading the electronic results directly from the new electronic voting machines. Previous results could have been altered through human error, as they were reported from individual polling places.
“This happens,” said Altschuler spokesperson Rob Ryan. “Especially with these new machines.”
Mr. Ryan said an official winner may not be declared until the end of the month. Military ballots are not due until Nov. 24.
Bishop spokesperson Jon Schneider said the congressman would like to see a recount by hand.
“At this point the only way to be sure of the accuracy of the count is to do a full hand recount of all the ballots, ” he said in a telephone interview Saturday. “There is a reason that Suffolk County residents insisted on having a paper backup and these circumstances demand we use it.”
It was a far cry from the tone of the Bishop camp Wednesday, when they all but declared victory.
“”The only people who think this race is ‘too close to call’ are on Randy Altschuler’s payroll,” Mr. Schneider said Wednesday. “Tim Bishop is leading by a solid margin, which will only grow as we count absentee ballots.”
Mr. Ryan said the results now show the Altschuler camp was right all along in its decision to not concede.
“We knew the Bishop team had jumped the gun on claiming victory,” he said.
In a letter to supporters Saturday, Mr. Bishop asked for donations to reach a $25,000 goal by Monday to cover legal expenses. He also asked voters who experienced problems casting their ballots to report those issues.
“The integrity of the electoral process is frankly more important than even the result of this election,” he wrote.
He also asked supporters to volunteer their time during the recount process.
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10/27/10 6:55pm
10/27/2010 6:55 PM

The slugfest between congressional candidates Tim Bishop and Randy Altschuler is making the most noise on the East End, but that race is just one part of the crowded ballot voters will face when they head to the polls in next week’s elections.
The names of the men running in the often emotional campaign to be New York’s next governor are found on the ballot’s left-hand side. To the right are the uncontested races for county clerk and county comptroller and the choice of who will represent local interests in the state Senate and Assembly when the Legislature reconvenes in Albany next year.
In between are the choices for both of New York’s federal Senate seats, state comptroller and attorney general and state Supreme Court, County Court and Family Court judgeships.
This is also the inaugural election for Suffolk County’s new electronic ballot, which replaces the time-honored mechanical voting booth. (Visit our website for a link to an informational video on how the new system works.)
But by far, the 1st Congressional District race has generated the most local interest.
Republican Randy Altschuler of Smithtown, who won the nomination in a bruising three-way primary, stands between Democratic incumbent Tim Bishop and a fifth term in the House of Representatives.
The race has centered largely on jobs. Mr. Altschuler claims that the incumbent, who previously worked as provost of Southampton College, has no experience in creating employment. Mr. Bishop argues that his GOP rival built his fortune as a pioneer in outsourcing jobs overseas, to India and other countries.
The challenger also blasts Mr. Bishop for supporting the Obama administration’s sweeping health care reform and stimulus packages, both of which he claims will only add to the nation’s crushing debt.
The incumbent has called the health care bill a workable compromise and still a work in progress. He claims to be an effective and open-minded representative of the people of eastern Suffolk County.
The 1st Congressional District covers northeastern Smithtown, most of Brookhaven and the five East End towns.
Earlier this year the region’s state Senate race also promised to be quite spirited when Democrats nominated New Suffolk resident Regina Calcaterra, an energetic corporate lawyer, to take on veteran GOP incumbent Kenneth LaValle, who ran unopposed two years ago.
But Ms. Calcaterra’s candidacy came to an end in August when a state court ruled that she had not lived in New York for the requisite five consecutive years before running. Jennifer Maertz, a Rocky Point attorney who worked on Ms. Calcaterra’s campaign staff, stepped in to fill the void.
In the 1st Assembly District contest, GOP county Legislator Dan Losquadro, also of Rocky Point, seeks to unseat Democrat Marc Alessi of Shoreham. Mr. Alessi has served in the Assembly since winning a special election in September 2005.
The gubernatorial race between Democratic state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino, a Tea Party favorite, tops the ticket.
They’re fighting for the seat now held by Governor David Paterson, who decided not to seek his own term. The former lieutenant governor stepped up to the state’s top elected post when former Governor Elliot Spitzer resigned after being named in a sex scandal.
It’s a crowded ballot, with Mr. Cuomo and running mate Robert Duffy appearing on the Democratic, Independence and Working Families lines. Mr. Paladino and lieutenant governor hopeful Gregory Edwards are on the Republican, Conservative and the combined Anti-Prohibition, Tax Revolt and Taxpayers lines.
The Libertarian and Green parties, plus a group known as Rent is 2 Damn High, have also fielded gubernatorial candidates.
Incumbent Democratic state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, a former assemblyman who was appointed in 2007, is running against Republican Harry Wilson. In the race to replace Mr. Cuomo as attorney general, Democrat Eric Schneiderman faces Republican Dan Donovan.
In the judicial races, eight candidates are seeking four state Supreme Court judgeships, each a 14-year term.
The County Court elections offer four candidates for three available seats. Republican incumbent James Hudson of Southold is running on the Democratic, GOP, Independence and Conservative Party lines. Three candidates are on the ballot for two Family Court judgeships.
Rounding out the ballot, county Treasurer Judith Pascale and county Comptroller Joseph Sawicki of Southold are both running unopposed.
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10/22/10 3:25pm
10/22/2010 3:25 PM

Who said paper balloting is old-fashioned and cumbersome, a leftover from the old days? In Suffolk County, it is the way of the future.

The county unrolled a new voting system with the primary elections in September, more than three years after it lost a lawsuit against the state to challenge the implementation of a federal law requiring an end to all voting by mechanical lever machines.

Click to view a video on how to use the new machines.

The county, which has used mechanical lever machines for generations, has chosen optical scanners over electronic touch-screen voting machines, which have been the subject of controversy because they keep no physical record of votes.

With optical scanners, voters are given a paper ballot, which they mark in a booth and then insert in a central machine outside the booth that counts the vote. The scanner stores the paper ballot as a back-up to be used for recounts or when election inspectors believe a machine has malfunctioned.

The phase-out of lever-style voting machines was mandated by the 2002 Help America Vote Act, which was spearheaded by the Bush administration in an attempt to streamline voting after the ballot-counting fracas in Florida following the 2000 presidential election. New York State used a different voting process than Florida, but the law found that lever machines were prone to several glitches and problems and required them, as well as all paper-punch systems like Florida’s, to be replaced with either optical scanners or touch-screen machines.

New York was the last state to use lever voting machines and Suffolk is last county in the state to make the switch.

In 2006, County Executive Steve Levy sued the New York State Board of Elections, which was charged with implementing the federal mandate, citing the lever machines’ reliability and the cost of replacing 1,500 machines. By then, New York State had asked all counties to replace lever machines with optical scanners or other devices that would ensure a paper trail if the machines malfunctioned.

Members of the Suffolk County League of Women Voters have been pushing the county to opt for paper ballots and optical scanners since 2006, in part because they say they are a low-cost alternative to touch screen machines.

Judie Gorenstein, the vice president for voter services for the league’s Huntington branch, told the county legislature in 2006 that the county would need only 514 optical scanners, which would cost about $3 million, while it would need 1,500 touch screen machines, at a cost of around $14 million, to handle its election general process. The reason, the league said, was that optical scanners are not in the booth where a voter might linger over his or her choices, so they are not subject to slowdowns in the tabulation process if voters take a long time. Touch screen machines combine the selection and tabulation process so they are prone to those delays and therefore process fewer voters in a given time.

The optical scanners also make voting easier for people with handicaps, said Tom Knobel, who serves as an assistant to Suffolk County Election Commissioner Cathy L. Richter Geier. The privacy booths are wide enough and low enough to accommodate wheelchairs. He said that it will also be easier for people to write in candidates, because the lever machines had an unwieldy window high up on the ballot where voters had to reach up to write in candidates’ names.

“We were very happy with the lever voting machines, but there’s no way to say whether the odometer wheel hitched somewhere while recording votes,” he said. “With optical scanners, the ballots will tell the tale. The ultimate form of security will be there.”

Mr. Knobel said that polling places will have dark pens on hand to ensure that people mark their ballots clearly. He added that, if the optical scanner cannot read markings, it will immediately inform voters, who can re-mark and resubmit their ballots.

The ballots themselves will not have any personal information on them, and people will still check in at their polling places in the same manner they do now.

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in a July issue of The Suffolk Times.

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