Greater Binghampton


Vote-count error narrows gap between Ryan, David in race for Binghamton mayor


By Doug Schneider and George Basler • • November 5, 2009, 10:45 pm



 Deputy elections commissioners Karen Davis, center, and Mariliz Pines, right, review vote totals Thursday from machines used in this week's City of Binghamton mayoral elections. The review, in which the Broome County Board of Elections checks results against those reported by telephone on election night, saw incumbent Matt Ryan's lead over challenger Rich David shrink by five votes. (DOUG SCHNEIDER / Staff Photo)


BINGHAMTON -- The margin got slimmer Thursday in the closest Binghamton mayoral race in recent memory, as officials were able to check tallies from all but one of the machines used in Tuesday's city vote.


Incumbent Matthew T. Ryan leads challenger Rich David by 56 votes, after a canvass of voting-machine totals was conducted at the Broome County Board of Elections. Ryan, a Democrat, began Thursday with a 61-vote lead.


Not every voting machine was checked, however. Paper records remain locked inside the machine used in District 11, which is in the city's First Ward, and the moving company hired to transport the machine has yet to be able to return it to the board's offices. That machine will be opened and records checked Friday when it is delivered to the board of elections, said Mariliz Pines, the Democratic deputy elections commissioner.


Ryan now is credited with 3,789 of the votes cast, compared with 3,733 for the Republican challenger. Independence Party candidate Douglas Walter Drazen is credited with 1,980 votes, 92 less than Tuesday.


Results remain unofficial. More than 500 absentee ballots will be counted Nov. 12.


News of the shrinking margin brought different reactions from the two leading contenders.


An upbeat-sounding David said he is encouraged by the developments. Ryan, by contrast, sarcastically said, "Yeah, I'm happy about losing votes." He then added: "The results are here ... that's all you need."


Vote totals changed for several reasons from the numbers posted by the board of elections based on reports filed by telephone Tuesday:


First, figures for each of the three candidates shrunk because totals from South Side election districts 26 and 27 were counted twice. The Press & Sun-Bulletin discovered the double-count when it checked the number of votes cast against the number of registered voters in those districts.


The districts vote at St. John the Evangelist Church.


The change reduced Ryan's total by 148 votes, David's by 147 and Drazen's by 79.


Also, transcription errors were discovered in several cases.

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"You have people hitting the wrong key, or calling in and switching numbers," said Eugene Faughnan, Broome's Republican elections commissioner. "It's the human factor. It was not because of the new machines."


Still, the situation raises questions about tallies where people in multiple election districts vote on the same machine.


That's true at 13 locations in Binghamton. Johnson City, which currently has a one-vote margin on a referendum over possible dissolution of the village, has a half-dozen such sites.


Faughnan said the board will deliver accurate results.


Broome this year began using electronic machines that scan paper ballots, as New York counties began to comply with the federal Help America Vote Act. Previously, the county had employed decades-old lever-style machines which worked well, but were not accessible to people with disabilities.


Canvassing of machine totals is done after each election to verify that numbers are correct. Such reviews help detect possible problems with machine totals -- Faughnan said the board caught a 100-vote discrepancy in totals from a city council race earlier this decade -- so that accurate numbers can be delivered when elections officials give final results.


David said he is confident that Broome elections officials will deliver accurate totals when all is said and done.


"All I can do is be confident that the system will play out fairly and accurately," David said.


Ryan, through spokesman Andrew Block, said he is "fully confident" in the process.