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Seventh Senate District Ballot Recount Begins Today

 One of Three Remaining Races to Decide Balance of Power in Senate

The 7th State Senate District ballot recount and absentee ballot count begins today. The counts are reportedly going to conclude sometime Friday. While Mineola Mayor Jack Martins has already claimed victory, Democrats feel the race for incumbent Sen. Craig Johnson’s seat is a race far from over.

As of last Wednesday, Johnson is down by 415 votes. Martins tallied in at 41,041 votes while Johnson concluded at 40,626.

Concerning the broad spectrum of the senate races, Democrats must win all three remaining undecided races to keep the majority they captured in 2008, while Republicans need to win two, according to the Board of Elections. In the 62-seat chamber, a majority requires 32 and Republicans have won 30 seats to Democrats 29.

If neither political party achieves a majority, the Senate will be deadlocked at 31-31, with the lieutenant governor casting the deciding vote on procedural matters but not on the passage of legislation. Democrat Rochester mayor Robert Duffy will be the new lieutenant governor.

Johnson needs to win 57 percent of the absentee ballots to draw even. His seat is considered critical to Senate Democrats attempt to retain control of the upper house of state government.

Officials say there were approximately 3,300 absentee ballots outstanding in the 7th district. When asked to comment on the situation, Johnson’s office referred the Mineola American to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).

According to DSCC spokes-man Austin Shafran, in a race this close, a candidate can request a recount through an order to show cause to have all the ballots reviewed.

Shafran said that this race is not over yet. Furthermore, the absentee ballots are going to take time to be counted.

“It’s a process that we’re going through right now,” Shafran said. “There’s actually three races going on right now that are too close to call. Once every vote has been counted, it will be clear that senate democrats have kept the majority. That includes Senator Johnson.”

Shafran said a recount process began as of last week. Furthermore, an absentee ballot hand recount and emergency ballot recount (if the machines do not work) started first. After those two are done the Board of Elections can recount all the ballots on the machines.

“We have heard of possible discrepancies and possible problems with a lot of the machines,” he stated. “Every vote counts, so every vote must be counted. This is a process. Republicans want to rush the results but elections are all about process.”

In terms of when an absentee ballot count and recount will be completed, Shafran said it’s difficult to put a timetable on the situation. “Our focus is to make sure every vote is counted, not how long it takes. As of right now, [Jack Martins] is not officially the senator-elect. There’s one senator for the 7th district and that’s Craig Johnson.”

Shafran said the race has to be certified by New York’s Secretary of State to be official. Furthermore, it won’t be certified until all the votes are recounted.

Mayor Jack Martins said in a phone interview that he doesn’t understand why the process is being made out to be ‘complex.’ “It’s a rather straight-forward process,” Martins said. “People vote, you count their votes and those people who can’t make it to the polls have the option of voting by absentee ballot, you count those votes and when all is said and done, the person who has the most votes wins.”

Martins stated that the Democratic Party is out there “playing a game” and asked why Johnson is not commenting directly on this issue. He said he’s disappointed that the voting process is being disrupted.

Martins and Johnson had waged a hard-fought campaign leading up to Nov. 2, with key stances on jobs, the MTA payroll tax and the STAR rebate check, which Martins said he’d work to get the check reenacted.

“Unfortunately I’m not surprised that [Johnson] who voted consistently with his party even when it meant voting against his constituents, would hide behind his party rather than respond to the current situation with the election than to take a position himself,” Martins said. “I’m an open book. We have a responsibility as candidates to be responsible for our own races. I do not believe it’s appropriate to hide behind the party when it comes to things like this.”

Martins said as much that certain Democratic Party members are willing to go to court and contest votes in the election and that certain members have possibly hired attorneys. He stated further that it’s his campaign’s concern to go through the process and count the votes to determine and certify a winner.

He concluded that he feels the results will hold up and that he doesn’t feel threatened by the “Democrat machine.” “If Craig Johnson and the New York City Democrat machine feel they’re going to intimidate myself and my campaign, they’re sorely mistaken.”