Judge dismisses request for revote
By Tomoeh Murakami Tse
April 7, 2005
A State Supreme Court judge has dismissed Mineola defense attorney Mark Alter's request for a do-over of the Massapequa Park Village justice election, ending a contentious race that took nearly a month to resolve.
Judge Robert Ross' decision on Monday came after a court-ordered recanvassing of the votes cast on March 15 still showed incumbent village justice Gerard Giannattasio defeating Alter, 969-610.
"There was no basis for the complaint," said Village Mayor James Altadonna.
While the election is finally over - Giannattasio was sworn in this week to his second term - the case brought to light some election procedures that the village acknowledged may need tweaking.
In his lawsuit, Alter argued that the only remedy to what he believes was a tainted election was a new election, in part because the voting machines were rented from, and returned to, a private company. As a result, they were not under the control of the Nassau County Board of Elections, which by law must conduct any recount.
In his decision, Ross declared that the result of the recanvassing was consistent with the initial vote count on election night and that there was no "showing of functional improprieties or tampering with these machines."
Under the law, villages are allowed to conduct elections in a manner they deem fit, while elections board are responsible for recanvassing.
Elections board chief clerk Vincent Grasso said it was difficult for the elections board in this case, because "the machines have been all over." He said the board "didn't set the machines, we didn't send them out, we didn't collect them," noting that the only thing the board can account for was that they were recanvassed properly once it got them.
Grasso said it was the first time the board had been asked to recount votes cast on a non-county voting machine. Most villages rent machines from the board, he said, at $150 a piece.
Village Attorney Kevin Walsh said the village's election process would likely be revisited, but he said he'd probably recommend continued use of the private company.
Election Machine Service Co. charged the village $1,742 for this election, records show. Village Clerk Peggy Caltabiano and other village officials said that renting from the county would be about $400 cheaper, when considering transportation and other fees. The difference, they said, was worthwhile given its track record.
The village has not reconsidered other options since it decided to use Election Machine Service Co. because they have been happy with the company's work, Altadonna said.
"We never had a recanvass request in the 15 years" since the machines have been used, Walsh said.
"We may hold them a little longer, a day more, to see if anyone has any issues with the results so that perhaps the county then will agree to come over and canvass them in our location," Walsh said.
Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.
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