Geneseo, N.Y. - We know one thing after a court hearing in Rochester
Wednesday morning: the republican primary race for Livingston County District Attorney is no longer a tie.
What we don’t know yet, is who will be declared the winner.
After a closer look at the absentee ballot tally sheet from last week, Eric Schiener picked up one additional vote putting him one vote ahead of Steve Sessler. Yet the victory still hinges on seven absentee ballots- at issue in the court hearing.
In 2008, the president-elect was determined based on a court ruling over hanging chads on punch-out ballots in Florida. In this primary race, it comes down to x’s marked in the wrong spot, unsealed envelopes, and the use of white out.
“The State Board of Elections has made the determination it was going to issue regulations, and it did issue regulations specifically in regards to how different remarks were to be interpreted,” said Sessler who argued his own side in court.
The vast majority of ballots in any race are cast via machine on Election Day. Absentee ballots, by contrast, are filled out in the privacy of someone’s own home.
In one case, a voter in Avon may have changed his mind while filling out his ballot, then used white out to negate a vote for Schiener while filling in an “X” for Sessler instead.
“There’s a danger of fraud or abuse here, someone else could have whited it out,” said attorney Richard Shaddock, who argued on behalf of Schiener to have the ballot thrown out.
“That voter voted for me,” argued Sessler. “That is the technique the voter used consistently throughout making his selections.”
In two other cases, voters used check marks or an “X” instead of filling in the circle by the candidate’s name. In two other cases the inner envelopes carrying the ballots arrived unsealed.
Of the seven ballots in question, we know two, if allowed, will go to each candidate. The results of the other three are unknown. Yet this court hearing ended as did election night – no decision.
“We’ve waited a long time,” said Sessler. “24 hours here or there is not going to be any more nerve-racking than the last two weeks.”
Judge Ark promised to rule in the next two days. If the race ends in a tie, the Livingston County Republican Party will choose the winner. Sessler said if this doesn’t go his way he will remain on the ballot as a conservative.
Schiener said if he’s not the choice he will bow out. “This really drives home the belief that every counts,” he says. “I’m hopeful Judge Ark will rule in our favor.”