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Democratic election commissioner backs proposal for automatic recounts

MAYVILLE — Chautauqua County Democratic Election Commissioner Norman P. Green has come out in strong support of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal for legislation triggering automatic manual recounts in close elections and establishing uniform recount procedures.

Green said, “The Nov. 5th Broome County District Attorney’s election is continuing to play out in court following a Board of Elections results certification of a 55-vote difference race out of 44,069 votes cast. This is an important election for all of us in New York, as it highlights the outside of New York City election law shortcoming of not having an automatic hand recount provision to decide tight votes.

“The general election for a new DA in Broome County finds Michael Korchak leading Paul Battisti by 55 votes out of 43,069 cast, a 0.1% margin. Both are Republicans, but Battisti beat out Korchak in the Republican primary, so incumbent Korchak bid to keep his job on the Libertarian Party line in November and appears to have reversed his challenger’s primary win.

“According to published reports, a Binghamton based Supreme Court Justice has ordered the Broome County Board of Elections to turn over the electronic ballot images so-as to let Battisti seek out ballots that were not clearly marked by voters. The Board has been correctly refusing to comply, as hand picking ballots out of 43,000 plus votes cast attempting to shower voter intent is not the right answer either.

“You’ll be surprised to hear that only New York City has a recount provision that requires a second look when the margin is 0.5% or less. A close Democratic primary for a new Queens County district attorney was settled this past summer by hand-counting of the paper ballots. This law needs to also be the statewide standard in very tight elections.

“We at every county Board of Elections in the state are required to accept our machine counts absent proof of error. This works fine for conclusive elections which are not in doubt, but razor thin elections deserve a full and total hand count review.”

Green continued, “We must change the law allowing for an automatic hand count of close races. We don’t know who will be next to certify an election that no one will know for sure who really won. An automatic hand recount law of our paper ballots needs to be put in place in January.”

“Elections are the foundation of our democracy, and there can’t be any confusion when it comes to their outcomes — otherwise people lose faith in the process. Right now decisions about whether to proceed with recounts in closely contested races almost always get bogged down in costly and unnecessary litigation because there’s a hodgepodge of standards around the state,” Cuomo said.

“By establishing clear rules mandating when a recount should be triggered and a process for local governments to follow, we’ll boost confidence in the democratic process and take another step toward transforming our electoral system into a model for the rest of the nation to follow,”the governor added.

Without statewide standards for triggering and conducting recounts in elections, County Boards of Elections and campaigns are often unprepared for the possibility of a recount in competitive contests. Recounts are regularly started through costly and time-consuming litigation, an unnecessary burden on local government, and weaken voters’ trust in New York’s electoral system. This legislation will provide clear direction to County Boards of Elections so that they may conduct timely and accurate recounts, continuing New York State’s legacy as a national leader on electoral reform.

Cuomo’s proposed legislation will amend current State Election Law to:

¯ Require an automatic recount in all statewide elections in which the margin of victory for a candidate or ballot proposition is 0.2% of all votes cast in the contest;

¯ Require an automatic recount in all other elections in which the margin of victory for a candidate or ballot proposition is 0.5% of all votes cast in the contest;

¯ Ensure that recounts be completed manually.

In 2019, Cuomo accomplished a key goal of his Justice Agenda when he signed landmark legislation strengthening New York State’s democracy by transforming election laws and increasing access to the ballot. These milestones included instituting early voting, expediting party enrollment changes to make it easier for voters to participate in upcoming primary elections, establishing pre-registration for minors and celebrating the passage of resolutions for amendments to the State Constitution that would allow for same-day voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting by mail.

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