Westchester voters are still wondering who will emerge as the victor for the State Senate seat for the 37th District. The count on the Westchester Board of Elections website remains at 40,527 for Oppenheimer versus 40,023 for Cohen, giving Suzi 50.31% of the vote to Bob’s 49.68%.
According to a recent email from the Cohen campaign, 10,000 votes are uncounted, which is “twice as many as any other Senate District in the state and more than most Congressional races. They also report “the emergency ballots, which are a third of the uncounted votes, are the first scheduled to be counted,” and that they “are due in court next week where the court will set the new schedule for the count.”
From Cohen’s email, it is not clear when this will be resolved. In order to understand more about why the results are so murky, Scarsdale10583 spoke to Milt Hoffman, who retired in 2001 as a senior editor of the Journal News after 50 years as a reporter, county and state government correspondent, politics columnist, editorial page editor.
He gave us the following observations on the vote, the new machines and the possible outcome.
First, the total votes shown in the race now stand at 80,550. According to Hoffman, “the 80,000 vote turnout estimate is low. Two years ago, Oppenheimer defeated Liz Feld by 78,862 to 42,036, and a total of 142,821 turned out to vote in the district. I wouldn't be surprised if the total turnout this year was over 100,000.”
Hoffman also noted that the new voting machines might have caused confusion among poll workers. Here are his comments:
“In the past, on election night, the inspectors read the results off the back of the election machine, line by line. This year, tapes recorded the vote. They give a total for the candidate from all the lines the candidate had. There is also a breakdown of how the candidate did on each party line. In one district, the results were taken by party; in another, they just jotted down the total for all the lines and didn't bother with the party vote.”
According to Hoffman, there were also problems contacting the Board of Elections. “I think there was confusion in calling in the votes, and the time it took. One person said she couldn't reach anybody at the Board of Elections by phone until 11 p.m. The lines were always busy. Inexperience with the new system held up the tallying on election night. The Board of Election called it quits that night when only about 80 percent of the districts had called in countywide.”
On the counting of the emergency ballots, Hoffman is confident that the Board of Elections will be accurate.
He says, “It is a slow process, but a sure one. Westchester's count of ballots always has been slow, because the Board traditionally makes painstaking efforts to count each ballot correctly. My guess is that the tallies have been finished, but that all the totaling has not been finished or is being checked twice and three times because of the new system. The fact that the Board seems to be late is a good thing; that means they take great care to be accurate.”
Furthermore, he added, “When it comes to some emergency ballots, they have to check that the person actually was registered in the district. Often there is a mistake at the Board and the voter's card is sent to the wrong district. The voter claims he or she is registered; the person is allowed to cast a ballot that is then placed in a separate box. When the box gets to the Board of Elections, the name on the outside of the sealed envelope is checked to determine whether or not the person was registered. If so, the outside envelope is discarded and the ballot in the inside envelope is placed in a separate box with other such ballots and opened without anyone knowing the name of the voter (keeping the ballot secret).”
Last, in Hoffman’s experience, the votes from the “paper ballots usually reflect the percentage of the machine count,” so he predicts the spread for Oppenheimer will hold up. However, no one can predict what will be found in the sealed envelopes.
Scarsdale10583 will continue to monitor the process and communicate developments to you.