Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato
By Michael V. Cusenza
After a manual recount, and nearly two months’ of legal wrangling, incumbent Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Howard Beach) now leads the Assembly District 23 race by a single vote over GOP challenger Tom Sullivan, according to published reports.
“As it stands right now, Stacey has a one-vote lead,” Pheffer Amato spokesman Matt Rey said Tuesday.
In a four-page ruling issued Thursday, Hon. Joseph Risi stated that, “Under the Election Law, when a voter improperly marks a ballot for one particular office or contest, ‘his or her vote shall not be counted for such office or position . . . but shall be returned as a blank vote thereon’ (Election Law §9-112). Under these circumstances, the entire ballot is not deemed void. Instead, only ‘the vote for that candidate or ballot question shall be considered void’ (9 NYCRR §6210.13[a]; see 9 NYCRR §6210.13[a]; cf. Election Law §9-112; 9 NYCRR §6210.13[a]). Thus, the aforementioned ballot errors only impact the election for the 23rd Assembly District. Here, the Court finds that the Board should not have invalidated the ballots designated as Exhibits A, B, D, G, H, I, J, K, L, O, and P as over-votes. With respect to the ballots designated as Exhibits B, D, I, K, L, and O, the parties agree that the write-in name was an exact match to the candidate that was also selected on the party line. In these circumstances, only the party line vote may be counted; 9 NYCRR §6210.13[a][i]; Tenney v Oswego County Bd. of Elections, 71 Misc 3d 400, 414 [Sup Ct, Oswego County 2021]). With respect to the ballots designated as Exhibits A, G, H, J, and P, the fact that these voters did not write-in the full name of the party candidate is of no moment. ‘A voter need not write in the first and last name of a candidate in every situation; the standard is whether the election inspectors can reasonably determine the intent of the voter when they cast their ballot’. Where the write-ins consist of ‘Stacey G,’ or ‘Stacey Pheffer,’ or the voter did not write in the full name of ‘Stacey G. Pheffer Amato,’ each of these voters also selected ‘Stacey G. Pheffer Amato’ on a party line. When considering these facts, Petitioner is the only individual for whom these voters reasonably could have intended their write-in ballot to be cast (see 9 NYCRR 6210.13[a][iv]; Matter of Rosenblum v Tallman Fire Dist., 117 AD3d 1064, 1066 [2d Dept 2014]). Therefore, only the party line vote may be counted.”
Earlier this month, an exasperated Sullivan tweeted, “[In] the State of Georgia, 3.5 million voters have now had two elections in a month. New York State’s 23rd Assembly District of 32 thousand voters continues to drag on.”