Livingston County DA contest

Steve Sessler challenges tied DA race

By Les Bowen for Genesee Country Express and Hornell Evening Tribune
Oct. 1, 2012   |   Original source

The county Board of Elections opened the final ballot, cast by a poll worker and challenged in court last week. Seventh District Supreme Court Justice John Ark ruled Friday the ballot was valid and ordered it counted. The vote for Eric Schiener brings the race back to a tie, this time with both candidates having 1,881 votes.

On election night, Steve Sessler led by 19. The absentee ballots brought the race to a tie while Ark made a ruling on seven contested ballots. With three of those ballots counted and the addition of a vote that county election officials are calling a miscount, the vote is again tied.

“I am surprised we can have so many ballots cast and it’s still a tie,” Sessler said immediately following the announcement.

The tied race was slated to go back to the county GOP committee, with a meeting scheduled Monday night, where Schiener said he expected to have the upper hand.

“There is a broad base that we need going forward,” Schiener said, adding his expectation that the county GOP committee would select him based how he ran his campaign and his qualifications.

“It’s the ultimate job interview and I think my resume speaks for itself,” he said.

But Monday afternoon, Sessler filed a court challenge. He claims there is a discrepancy in the number of absentee ballots announced Monday morning.

At question is the miscounted ballot, a vote cast for Schiener, which was announced last Wednesday, a week after the absentee ballots were counted and nearly two weeks after the election.

“I want to know how the Board of Elections accounts for that ballot,” Sessler said.

A press release from his campaign called the board’s handling of the ballot “absolutely stunning” and went on to call it “equally troubling” that County Attorney David Morris did not bring up the discrepancy until after the court hearing last week.

“I am disappointed, obviously, that this nomination is being dragged back into the courts,” Schiener said.

Sessler filed court papers Monday afternoon and Ark ordered all ballots and related materials to be impounded by the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office and that the county Republican Party be prohibited from selecting a nominee.

The question of whether ballots must be re-canvassed will be heard Wednesday morning in Rochester.

County GOP Chairman Lowell Conrad suggested that Sessler knew the county committee that had voted for Schiener in June would again vote that way this week.

“I think it’s a stall tactic to limit Eric’s time for campaigning,” he said.

Livingston County Board of Elections refused to comment on Sessler’s allegations.