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One unopened ballot could decide DA race

By: Mike Murphy//September 28, 2012

One unopened ballot could decide DA race

By: Mike Murphy//September 28, 2012//

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A ballot that could decide the winner of the topsy-turvy Republican primary race for Livingston County district attorney is scheduled to be opened at 9 a.m. Monday, Oct. 1.

The news comes after state Supreme Court Justice John J. Ark ruled Friday morning that three of seven ballots are to be counted in the primary, which would determine who will run on the GOP line against District Attorney Gregory J. McCaffrey, a Democrat, in November.
Two of those votes are cast for candidate Steven Sessler, meaning he is now one vote ahead of GOP-endorsed candidate Eric Schiener.
Both candidates were in court Wednesday.

Sessler led by 19 votes after the primary vote Sept. 13. The two were deadlocked after absentee ballots were counted Sept. 19.
Schiener, though, led by one vote after a miscount was discovered.

The corrected tally before Justice Ark’s decision had Schiener with 1,880 votes and Sessler with 1,879, although now Sessler has two more votes to add to his total.

A special ballot turned in by an election inspector may turn out to be a deciding vote.

The inspector delivered his affidavit ballot on Sept. 13, the day of the primary vote. The ballot had not been opened.
Sessler had argued against having that ballot counted, saying it deviated from procedures and was received after the deadline.
The inspector, who was to be working in an election district other than his own voting district, called the Board of Elections the day before the Sept. 13 election, 20 minutes after the office had supposedly closed. He was told by a Livingston County election commissioner that he could deliver his ballot the next day, the day of the vote.

The voter in this case, called the Board of Elections in timely fashion and was told he could come in and “substantially complied with the statutory directive,” Justice Ark said in his decision.

If the vote is for Sessler, he would run in November with the Republican Party line. Win or lose, he will be on the ballot in November with the Conservative Party endorsement. Schiener would be off the ballot entirely.

A vote for Schiener would result in a tie, and the Livingston County Republican Committee – which already endorsed Schiener – would determine the winner.

Here’s why the two ballots cast for Sessler that had been disputed because of stray marks are to be counted.

One of the ballots contained white correcting fluid in the circle for Schiener and a cross mark in the circle for Sessler.  Another ballot had a filled-in circle as well as a check mark under Sessler’s name.

“Here, the ballot markings clearly indicate the voters’ selections for candidate Steven D. Sessler,” Justice Ark said in his decision.

Two unsealed envelopes that contained unopened ballots are to remain laid aside and unopened in accordance with election law, Justice Ark decided.

Two other ballots canceled each other out because they had one vote for each candidate.
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