Paper Ballots in Staten Island…shades of Florida 2000 in NYC

Last week, the 49th City Council District of New York City had a special election to determine who would replace Mike McMahon who was elected to the United States Congress back in November.  Just days before the election one candidate John Tabacco was taken off the ballot for not having legitimate signatures for his petitions.  A day before the election, the Board of Elections ruled to overturn the decision and place Tabacco back on the ballot.  With the voting machines already made up, this forced voters in the 49th to use paper ballots since Tabacco was not on the machine.  The rest…well this is where the fun begins. 

After what seemed like an endless plea to get himself on the ballot, Tabacco ended up finishing fourth behind projected winner Ken Mitchell, Debi Rose, and Rev. Tony Baker.  However, due to the paper ballots a significant number of votes were left in limbo due to voter errors.  The ballot called for the voter to fill in one oval completely.  However, several voters out of the 11,000 filled in all the ovals, filled in no ovals, or placed a circle around or an X for their votes.

The ballots with all names filled in or no names filled were automatically thrown out.  However, the votes with a circle or an X are now up for debate.  As of election night, Mitchell claimed victory with a 240 vote lead over Rose.  However, the Staten Island Advance reported the lead shrank down to 48 after a few absentees ballots were counted with 395 ballots left to be counted.  

This race can go on for months.  We could have courts deciding different rulings about allowing different ballots to count or not.  However, both candidates have agreed to let any recount run its course.  For the 49th Council District however….they are left in limbo.

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