- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 6, 2005

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — This election is getting old, and it’s not aging gracefully.

When a state Senate race just north of New York wound up too close to call, each side accused the other of mischief — such as intimidating old ladies at the polls or importing voters from the Bronx.

Three months after the case went to court, it is still there.

“We’ll probably see democracy in Iraq before this election is done,” said incumbent Republican Nicholas Spano.

The race between Mr. Spano and Democrat Andrea Stewart-Cousins is the longest-lasting legislative election in state history and one of only a few still lingering nationwide.

A machine recount reduced the vote gap to single digits and ensured that the election would be decided by the thousands of handwritten absentee and provisional ballots.

Lawyers on both sides nitpicked their way through the ballots, with the judge issuing rulings on whether signatures matched, addresses could be clearly read and voters actually qualified for mailed-in ballots.

Of the 127,000 votes cast, Mr. Spano’s lead was 58 when the judge ruled on all the remaining ballots, finding that 170 more should be counted — those cast by people who went to the right polling place but the wrong election district table. The attorneys called that category “right church, wrong pew.”

Both sides appealed; Democrats wanted more ballots ruled eligible and the Republicans fought the 170.

It took a four-judge appeals court a month to decide that 45 ballots should be counted — those cast by poll workers who used absentee ballots.

Both sides appealed again, to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals. Those judges ruled Wednesday, 5-2, that 228 ballots could be counted — those of the poll workers and the “right church, wrong pew” voters.

It appeared the ruling gave Mrs. Stewart-Cousins a good chance to win.

Then, on Thursday night, just minutes before the decisive ballots were to be counted, one Court of Appeals judge noted that a five-day wait was required.


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