Write-in votes being recounted in Harrison supervisor race
Nearly three weeks after Election Day, the race is still too close to call.
Challenger and former five-term Town Supervisor Ron Belmont leads incumbent Republican Rich Dionisio by one vote. Belmont launched a write-in campaign roughly six weeks before Election Day to reclaim his old seat.
Of the 2,000 write-in votes, it appears it will come down to challenges against 150 of them.
On Monday, both sides sat down to review each ballot and had the opportunity to send them to a judge for a final determination. Most of the issues include a candidate's name spelled wrong or written into the wrong box.
"Those votes are up in the air right now. We're hoping that they count, and they should count because that was the intent of the voter. To vote for me," said write-in challenger Ron Belmont outside of the County Board of Elections building.
Belmont and his attorneys believe votes that show intent for the challenger should count while Dionisio's team argues only ballots filled out correctly should count.
"There is no way from the face of the paper to discern exactly what the voter intended," said John Ciampoli an attorney for Rich Dionisio.
Democratic and Conservative candidate Mark Jaffe secured more than 1,800 votes but not enough to keep him in the race.
The race could go to a full recount, as state election law requires if the final results are within 20 votes or less; or 0.5%, whichever is less.
But this is only Belmont's first hurdle to return to the office. The town has a local term limit law capping someone from serving as town supervisor for 10 years. But similar to the Town of Clarkstown's law, which was voided by the state's top court in May, it never went before the voters for a referendum until this year, according to Belmont's attorneys.
Ciampoli argued the cases are different because Clarkstown dealt with legislative powers and this one does not. He has sued Belmont, on behalf of Dionisio, claiming he knew that the law prevented him from petitioning to get on a party line and therefore his candidacy is illegitimate.
"While we are trying to fix what the numbers are, and I understand that's important to the process, it is not going to be relevant here because he's going to be disqualified at the end of the day," said Ciampoli.
To make matters more complicated, town voters just approved a referendum question on this year's ballot identical to the town's term limits law. A judge, possibly even the state's highest court, would have to decide whether that referendum on this year's ballot would apply to a candidate also on the same ballot if the original law is overturned.
"We won the election and now we have to go through the process to formalize it," said Belmont.
Officials are expected to resume checking ballots on Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. but the process could linger into the end of the week.