Voters will have to wait a little longer to find out who won the Nov. 6 election for four new judges in the state Supreme Court's Fourth Judicial District.
County boards of election in the Fourth District are now under an impoundment order, meaning all ballots and election materials must be returned to the "offices of the Respondents Counties' Boards of Elections," according to a petition filed in Montgomery County Supreme Court on Wednesday. The petition was filed by Felix Catena, a Montgomery County Court judge who is locked in the close race.
As of last Friday, Catena only led John Ellis, a family court magistrate who lives in Tupper Lake, by 61 votes, according to Catena's tally. Thousands of absentee ballots still need to be counted. Catena and Ellis both ran on the Republican and Conservative party lines.
Eight candidates ran for four 14-year seats in the Fourth District. Vote counts vary among news media and candidates, but all of the counts have Republican Joseph Sise leading, followed by Democrat Christine Clark. In the middle of these counts are Republicans Thomas Buchanan, Catena and Ellis, and Democrat Mark Powers. All the counts so far have Democrats John Silvestri and Jeffrey Wait with the least votes, out of the running.
Wednesday's petition, which was signed by Schenectady Supreme Court Justice Vincent J. Reilly, calls for "all voting materials ... to be preserved inviolate and separate, under a security system requiring bi-partisan participation to access of all election and ballot materials."
"The candidates feel that there's a reason (they) didn't win," Terrance Smith, Republican elections commissioner for Montgomery County, told the Enterprise. "So what they want to do is show cause by having people observing as we do the recanvas and the counting of the affidavits and the absentees and all of that.
"And also, any voter at any time could object to the counting of an absentee ballot. So then they have people here to decide whether or not we're going to count an absentee ballot before we even open it."
Smith said impounding the ballot slows down the vote-counting process.
"All 11 counties in the Fourth (Judicial District) basically have to stop doing any recanvassing or absentee counting at this point," he said. "But because we have the first order, which says that we're supposed to be done doing our recanvas by Saturday, that's where we're at. We're counting those."
The "first order" Smith referred to was signed by Montgomery County Surrogate Court Justice Guy Tomlinson after Republican George Amedore sued to impound votes in the race for New York's 46th Senate District. It affected ballots in part of Schenectady County and all of Montgomery County, which is part of the Fourth District.
Smith said lawyers for both candidates and a representative from each board of elections in the Fourth District will appear at the county courthouse in Schenectady at 9:30 a.m. Monday to agree on how to proceed.
The Fourth District consists of 11 upstate counties including Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Montgomery, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren, St. Lawrence and Washington.
A phone message left for Catena wasn't immediately returned on Thursday. Ellis didn't immediately respond to an email message.
Contact Chris Morris at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.