Rob Astorino-Pete Harckham: It'll be a while before we know election winner. Here's why
Ballot counting in Westchester won't begin until next week.
As if the campaign season hasn’t been long enough.
It’ll be at least a week and possibly several weeks before it’s clear who won the hotly contested New York State Senate election between Republican Rob Astorino and incumbent Democrat Pete Harckham.
Both sides are due in court Monday to set a schedule to review and count most of the 33,000 absentee ballots that will decide the race.
Absentee ballots must be counted if they arrived at the local boards of election by Tuesday and were postmarked by Nov. 3.
But the counting process was paused because of a lawsuit by Astorino filed prior to Election Day.
In papers filed in New York State Supreme Court an attorney for Astorino claimed machines “may have been defective” or susceptible to hacking, and asked the court to ensure preservation of paper ballots, applications and other material.
Astorino holds an 8,000-vote lead over freshman Sen. Harckham in in-person voting, but the absentee ballots are expected to skew largely in Harckham’s favor because a large majority of the absentees are from registered Democrats.
The race is for the 40th Senate District, which stretches from upper Westchester into part of Putnam and Dutchess.
Astorino's lawsuit is one of more than 20 filed across the state in a year when the coronavirus pandemic meant an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots.
Harckham told The Journal News/lohud he viewed the lawsuits as a coordinated effort by Republicans to invalidate as many mail ballots as possible because of the likelihood those votes favor Democrats.
"Their best bet is to throw out as many as they can and it's really disenfranchising thousands of New Yorkers," he said.
He said Republicans from President Donald Trump down to the local level are trying to delegitimize Democratic victories.
"They see the same numbers that we do and they know that when we open the paper, they lose, so they're fighting tooth and nail to suppress these votes," he said.
But William O'Reilly, an Astorino campaign spokesman, said the suit was about ensuring a fair count.
"The process of counting absentee ballots in New York is an arduous one, but protecting the integrity of the vote is worth the extra time," O'Reilly said.
O'Reilly said attorneys are employed by both sides in "virtually" all races that come down to absentees.
"That's what happening now – it's how the democratic process properly works," he said.
Westchester election officials said they won't begin counting ballots until next week.
The Westchester portion is considered pivotal because it represents 72% of the district by overall voter registration, while the Dutchess and Putnam sections lean Republican. Harckham unseated Sen. Terrence Murphy in 2018 by 3,800 votes even as Murphy won the Dutchess and Putnam part of the district.