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It Ain’t Over

Primary day may have come and gone, but the race is still on for some Albany seats

by Erin Pihlaja on September 18, 2013

 

This is what democracy looks like: Counting absentee ballots in Albany. Photo by Erin Pihlaja.

Things are winding down in the Albany Common Council primaries that were too close to call last week as the Albany County Board of Elections opens up absentee ballots and affidavits this week to get the official counts. But that doesn’t mean that things will necessarily be settled just yet.

Today (Thursday) at 9 AM, counts will take place to determine whether Mark Robinson or Samuel Coleman will take the seat for Ward 5, which had been a four-way primary race. At the close of election night, Robinson led Coleman by only 14 votes, at 130 to 116, but as County Elections Commissioner Rachel Bledi confirmed, there were 47 absentee ballots issued, 26 of which were returned, a number that could bring Coleman from behind for the win.

However, even before the scheduled counting begins, there is talk of suspicious activity. Bledi said that Coleman raised a concern over an affidavit filled out by a female voter at the Arbor Hill Community Center on primary day. Coleman maintained that the address where the woman said she lived, in a sworn statement, was actually a vacant building.

Bledi said that the woman had been registered to vote at 10 Livingston Ave., in the West Hill neighborhood, but her status was changed to inactive after mail sent by the Board of Elections was returned as undeliverable.

After being notified at the polls that she had an inactive status, she was asked to vote via affidavit in which she swore that she lived at the address, a property that is owned by Robinson’s brother.

The property is not registered properly with the city’s vacant building registry, but as the Times Union reported, Jeffrey Jamison, commissioner of the Department of Buildings and Regulatory Compliance, said that it “has no valid certificate of occupancy or rental occupancy permit.” The same article also stated that: “City Assessor Keith McDonald said the building is assessed for tax purposes as being vacant.”

County Board of Elections officials will investigate the claim, and Bledi said that this is an example of how the voting procedures that are in place caught the possible discrepancy as they were meant to. “The system actually works,” she added and also noted that this situation is an unusual one.

In other contests, the race for Ward 8 was decided early on Wednesday in deputy ward leader Jack Flynn’s favor over Leonard Ricchiuti. Flynn, who works at the Board of Elections, was not present for the counting, but Ricchiuti watched as each ballot was opened and examined at the North Russell Road location. One hundred and fourteen absentee ballots were issued, said Bledi, and 79 were received. The final count was 847-791. The officials at the count also confirmed that current Mayor Jerry Jennings received a few write-in, and invalid, votes in this ward.

In addition to the Thursday count for Ward 8, a count will take place at 1 PM to determine the official winner of Ward 2. After election night, challenger Vivian Kornegay led incumbent Lester Freeman by 19 votes. Bledi confirmed that there were 36 absentee ballots issued and that 18 were received. This is a race where the validity of every vote will surely come into play.

While no one contested any of the ballots in Wednesday’s counts, Bledi said that if a candidate does not agree with the ruling of one of the commissioners, “they have three days to take it to the courts for review.”