Update (3:15 p.m.): The results of the Ward 4 and Ward 5 elections have been updated. The story is available here.
Original story (9:15 a.m.):
TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—After more than a week in limbo, last week’s election results should be completed by Thursday afternoon, according to the Tompkins County Board of Elections.
Democratic Elections Commissioner Steve DeWitt said a hand count of “a lot” of ballots which would not properly scan earlier this week would take place on Thursday and offer some more clarity on a few close local races. DeWitt did not clarify exactly which races the remaining uncounted ballots were cast in, though the board’s updated election results show which races could be close enough for uncounted ballots to matter to the final outcome.
DeWitt has not answered a request for more information regarding why the ballots would not scan and whether that’s a common occurrence, though the unprecedented influx of write-in and affidavit ballots could be complicating the matter.
Those counts could determine the outcome of races in Ward 4 and Ward 5 in the City of Ithaca, though those races seem poised to finish close enough for an automatic recount, as was conducted in June during the Democratic primaries for three ward races. It is unclear if any other races elsewhere in the county will qualify as well, though answers should be clear Thursday.
If a race’s final margin is below 20 votes, a recount is automatically triggered. In the event of a tie, a special election between the tied candidates must be held in December, according to state law.
With DeWitt’s caveat about the hand count in mind, final margins are still to be determined. Currently, from what is listed in the Board of Election’s results page that was updated late Wednesday afternoon, the margin between Clyde Lederman (Democrat and Working Families Party) and Jason Houghton (Ithacans for Progress party) in the Fifth Ward is 11 votes, with Houghton listed at 139 to Lederman’s 128. After Election Day, Houghton held a 137-114 lead over Lederman.
The Fourth Ward race remains somewhat mysterious, fitting for a race that included a surprise 11th hour write-in candidate, Cornell Student Assembly President Patrick Kuehl. The margin between DeFendini and the number of write-in votes on Election Day was 16, with DeFendini in the lead with 28 votes. There are dozens of write-in votes to count, though Thursday’s review will determine how many of those write-ins are valid and will determine the necessity of a recount.
To emphasize some of the confusion the election has endured after a higher than usual number of affidavit ballots and coordinated write-in votes, Kuehl’s own affidavit ballot was rejected because he used the wrong address when filling out his ballot, an address outside of the Fourth Ward. Kuehl blamed the incident on stress when filling out the ballot.
Affidavit ballots are used for voters who are registered but aren’t on the voter rolls when arriving at their designated polling station, like if they have recently moved but have not updated their address.
Further illustrating the notorious turnout issues in the Fourth Ward, one of the ward’s three districts did not have a single vote cast in the election held last week, according to the Bord of Elections.