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Paper absentee ballots could draw out guv, Senate races

As we move toward the 2009 fall election campaign, there are some lasting repercussions from the 2008 elections, especially in northeast Queens, where incumbent state Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose) retained his seat against challenger City Councilman James Gennaro (D−Fresh Meadows).

The results were determined by paper absentee ballots after weeks of counting and recounting, with both sides questioning the validity of various ballots. This counting process lasted weeks into 2009, which prevented a winner being declared until after the legislative session was under way.

This meant the people of the 11th Senate District did not have representation in the state Senate during that period. We have not had anything like this in recent Queens political history.

But it was not an isolated case as we look to Minnesota, where more than six months after that state’s U.S. Senate race between Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken, they are still counting and recounting disputed paper absentee ballots. This case is due to go before the Minnesota Supreme Court in June. After that decision, it can be appealed further into federal court.

In the meantime, the people of Minnesota have only one senator to represent them in the Senate instead of the two they are entitled like every other state.

In view of these occurrences, the question arises if either of next year’s races for New York governor or the U.S. Senate should be close. They are decided by a small number of paper absentee ballots. Could we run into a similar situation as they are now experiencing in Minnesota, with no winner declared until months after the U.S. Senate or gubernatorial term of office has begun? Hopefully, that will not be the case, but with the increasing use of absentee ballots, the possibility exists.

It is time for the state and city Elections boards to tighten procedures on the use of paper absentee ballots. Generally, the 10 city commissioners on the Elections Board should find ways of discouraging paper ballots in future elections. We have spent a lot of money in the purchase and maintenance of voting machines. We want to see them used. It is not in the best interest of our democratic voting system to have situations like what occurred in the Queens 11th Senate District and which continues to unfold in Minnesota.

With Tom Golisano changing his residency from New York state to Florida, it removes the possibility he will run for New York governor next year, as he has done three times before. If he were to run next year as an independent, it could have led to an interesting gubernatorial race with an uncertain outcome. A Golisano candidacy would probably have had the effect of hurting the Rudolph Giuliani effort, if he is the Republican gubernatorial candidate.

Another potential Republican gubernatorial candidate is former U.S. Rep. Rick Lazio, who ran unsuccessfully against Hillary Clinton for the U.S. Senate in 2000. He has shown an interest in entering the gubernatorial campaign, but the election for governor is not until 2010, and as we move forward, possibly more potential candidates will emerge, especially with Democratic Gov. David Paterson doing poorly in the polls.

In the race for Councilman Tony Avella’s (D−Bayside) seat in northeast Queens, there are six Democrats presently competing for their party’s nomination. After the Democratic Party County Executive Committee officially announces its choice of a candidate, it remains to be seen how many of those candidates who did not get the endorsement of their county organization will remain in the race and circulate petitions leading to a primary election.

It is noted that state Assemblywoman Ann Margaret Carrozza (D−Bayside) is supporting Jerry Iannece for that Council seat. That is important because much of the district is composed of Carrozza’s district. The Republicans at present have in the race one candidate — Dan Halloran, who has been endorsed by the Queens Republican county organization.

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