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Paper Ballot Count Begins in Higgins-Naples Race

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – The Erie County Board of Elections began counting absentee and affidavit ballots Monday in the 27th congressional district race. Tuesday, the Chautuaqua County Board of Elections begins its count.

Erie County elections commissioners started the lengthy process of opening sealed absentee ballots. More than 13,000 paper ballots in both counties need to be tallied even though Brian Higgins has already declared victory over Nancy Naples.

Naples got a court order on election night as she lagged behind in the race. That halted any absentee ballots from being counted until now. Attorneys for Naples and Higgins are closely watching the process making sure the ballots were not tampered with. Brad Stamm represents Naples.

"We check for envelopes or affidavits that are not signed or ballots that have extraneous marks," Stamm said "Until they're opened, we don't know if (the ballot) is good for our side or the other. So, we're just trying to verify the accuracy of this count to make sure the votes that are counted are legitimate votes."

A voting machine re-canvass has Higgins leading by about 3,100 votes. But Stamm says as the absentee ballots are counted, he believes Naples has a good chance, especially in Chautuaqua County where she had strong election numbers. The attorney for Higgins, Dennis Ward, says he believes Higgins twill still win by a "comfortable margin."

"We've said all along it wasn't that we weren't in favor of counting the ballots, what we said was that when the ballots are counted, there's not going to be a change," Ward said. "The results will be the same and Brian Higgins is the new member of Congress."

There were some absentee ballots thrown out during Monday's count. Some affidavits were not signed. Others failed to register to vote on time.