Count starts to determine winners in 44 close races
HUDSON – Ten Democrats and 10 Republicans, in five groups of four each, sitting at tables in the chambers of the county Board of Supervisors have quietly begun counting the ballots cast in 44 of the races from the November 8 general election. Their task requires them to sort through not only the votes cast at the polls on Election Day but also 1,503 absentee ballots.
The count will officially determine the winners in those 44 races for county, town and city offices, and while the fate of some will not change from the preliminary tallies based on the records from the optical scan voting machines released a few hours after the polls closed, some contests, including the one for mayor of Hudson remain too close to call and the results will not be known for a week or more.
Candidates in those races may want the campaign to end to relieve the tension, but the Town of Copake has a more practical concern: It can’t prepare its annual budget without knowing the outcome of a referendum on the ballot. The proposition asked whether the town should dissolve the Police Department, and ‘No’ votes led by a mere 28 when the polls closed on Election Day. The town has had financial difficulties and the board wanted the public to make the call on whether to reap the savings that would result if Copake eliminates the department. But with over 100 absentee ballots yet to be counted, there is no telling what the outcome of the referendum will be.
Towns must approve their annual budgets by November 20, but county Democratic Elections Commissioner Virginia Martin said this week that the count isn’t scheduled to begin on local races until late this week. She could not say exactly when the process would end because that depends on whether candidates challenge ballots during the process.
In Hudson, the voting machine results showed Republican William Hallenbeck Jr. leading his opponent Nick Haddad by a vote of 760 to 733. But there are 188 absentee ballots in that race, according to Ms. Martin. And with just 27 votes separating the two candidates, the outcome is also far from certain.
Mr. Haddad’s business said he was away on vacation this week and could not be reached for comment. Mr. Hallenbeck could not be contacted prior to press deadline.
Since the election, the Board of Elections counters have been reviewing the machine ballots to be sure they match totals produced by the scanner. Only after that task is complete will the board turn to the absentee ballots. The first race the county Board of Elections will audit, as the process of tallying all the votes is called, involves not one candidate from the county; it is for one of two seats on the state Supreme Court from the Third Judicial District, which includes all of Columbia and half a dozen other counties. That process is scheduled to begin Friday.
But there will be lawyers for Democrat Raymond J. Elliott III and Republican Catherine Cholakis monitoring the count for any irregularities of questionable ballots. “That’s going to slow them down,” Ms. Martin said.
Even with enough absentee ballots to give a trailing candidate a mathematical chance of winning a close race, Ms. Martin conceded this week, “some of them are long shots and some are not.”
And absentee ballots are not the only challenge facing the Board of Elections. In three races where there was only one candidate there were write-in names.
There have also been legal challenges raised in the Hudson race for mayor, so the suspense there may outlast the other races. Ms. Martin says that the legal questions raised mean that Hudson will be the last race audited.
To contact Parry Teasdale email .