After a month of legal points and counterpoints, Democrat Joan Meehan, the frontrunner for the position on Election night, was confirmed as the winner of the sixth Glen Cove City Council seat by Nassau County Supreme Court Justice John P. Dunne.
The outcome is one that Democrats hoped for to ensure their majority on the City Council that now includes two Republicans, John Maccarone and Steve Gonzalez. Had a third Republican been elected to the city council, the power to stop appointments, bonding and the city budget would have been a reality for the Republicans.
Mrs. Meehan's Republican opponent, Margo Pershing, ultimately lost the election by 13 votes and this decision follows several trips to court to have a judge decide the validity of several affidavit and absentee ballots. Challenges to those particular ballots were filed by either of both political parties. The ballots contained irregularities: extraneous marks, smudged postmarks, designations made incorrectly or by using the wrong color ink. Challenges to these paper ballots included, for example, a ballot that was marked with a continuous line running through the entire Republican party line candidates rather than a check mark or an "x" in each box. The Republicans said it was a vote for their candidates; the Democrats said it was a crossing out of the candidates so it was a vote for their party's candidates. Another ballot had a Democrat chosen by the voter who then crossed out the candidate, rewrote the name and made a check in a self-created box, then crossed that out and drew an arrow pointing to the candidate's name with several lines under it for emphasis. Other challenges to the election were filed concerning discrepancies between the yellow buff cards and the actual count on the public counter of voting machines in at least two election districts. Those discrepancies were resolved after several re-counts.
On Dec. 5, Justice Dunne rendered his decision in what Democratic Party attorney Steven Schlesinger said was the "most scrutinized election" he was ever involved with in his 20 years of election experience. Of her 13-vote margin of victory, Mrs. Meehan said, "I am grateful that the people of Glen Cove have given me their confidence and I will serve them honestly. I pledge to work hard to implement the goals of revitalizing the downtown and the waterfront that Mayor Suozzi has set for our team."
Justice Dunne's Decision
"Prior to the hearing, the Court reviewed and ruled upon certain challenges to the legality of a number of paper ballots cast in the Nov. 4 election. As a result of this ruling, the Democratic candidate, Joan Meehan has claimed victory by 13 votes over the petitioner, Republican Margo Pershing. The petitioner requested this Court to order a new trial due to alleged irregularities that occurred during the election. These irregularities are indicated by the difference between the number of votes recorded on the public counters as opposed to the number of signatures on the registration card, (buff cards).
Findings of Fact
The parties at the commencement of the hearing, entered into the following stipulations:
i) there were 65 fewer signed buff cards in the records of the Board of Elections than there were votes tabulated on all the voting machines as reflected on Exhibit Number 1 in Evidence;
ii) the Board of Elections certified that Joan Meehan had ten more votes than Margo Pershing prior to the determination of these challenges;
iii) Election District 4 had 12 unaccounted for votes on the public counter of which nine were subsequently included on the voting inspectors records as having voted;
iv) no other comparison was made between the buff cards and the election inspectors lists other than in Election District 4;
v) the challenges made by both parties regarding certain paper ballots netted three additional votes in favor of Joan Meehan.
On the basis of these stipulations, exhibits and oral argumentation, the Court makes the following conclusions.
Conclusions of Law
The burden is upon the petitioner, Margo Pershing, to establish her claim that the election was so infected with irregularities and fraud as to overturn this election or demand a new election.
On the existing facts, Joan Meehan has established a lead of 13 votes with 65 challenges outstanding and awaiting determination. At this stage the percentage of the vote is represented to be 49.97 percent for Margo Pershing and 50.03 percent for Joan Meehan. The parties have agreed to utilize a statistical formula accepted in prior and similar court proceedings to ascertain the probability of the split on the outstanding challenges. In doing so, the Court has accepted Joan Meehan's argument that the nine names appearing on the election inspectors list in Election District 4 were valid voters. Thus, the 65 challenges are reduced to 56. Although it can be inferred that the lists of the other election inspectors in the remaining Election Districts may well establish the validity of other voters, and thus reduce the number of challenges even further, neither Party has done so.
In reviewing the overall conduct of the election, the fact that each candidate received effectively 50 percent of the total votes in 19 Election Districts, the Court sees no indication of fraud; or even a succession of irregularities which would lead it to direct a new election. Furthermore, statistically, the burden of Ms. Pershing, necessary to overcome Ms. Meehan, is extensive. It would require her to establish that Ms. Meehan's vote count would exceed 60 percent. Similarly, there is no indication nor testimony which would motivate this Court to overturn the decision of the voters. Accordingly, the petition raised by Ms. Pershing is dismissed."
As of press time, there is no word from the Glen Cove GOP on whether the party will appeal the judge's decision.