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Board of Elections Begins Hand Count of Paper Ballots

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Hand counting of 85,000 paper ballots begins Tuesday in Erie County -- one week after the primary election ended.

The paper ballots were all collected and have been kept under lock and key since the election. But elections officials put off physically counting them until after all absentee ballots were received. Some candidates and political activists were critical of the delay. But Republican Commissioner Ralph Mohr says the counting needed to be a carefully orchestrated.

"When they see the process we have gone through to ensure the security of the ballots, the fact that the ballots are being opened here, handled here at the Board of Elections for the very first time, while the candidates certainly would have liked to have known last week on election night, how they were standing, I think when the end process is done they will be see that the result we will certify will be the correct and proper result," said Mohr.

Still, at least one challenge to the process has already been filed. Political activist Leonard Roberto wants the state elections Board to investigate what he calls criminal violations of elections law. He alleges that the use of paper ballots and the delay in counting was intended to frustrate the process. But Commissioner Mohr says the Board has a good track record for open and fair handling of elections.

"I don't mind the scrutiny of the State Board of Elections," said Mohr. "I think the best scrutiny is the public of Erie County and the candidates who are on the ballot themselves."

Mohr says the counting will take place with candidates and the media present. He says the first ballots counted will be in the most closely contested races. They include the 1st, 5th, 9th and 12th legislative districts, where in some cases only a few machine vote separate the candidates. He expects the Board will be able to declare a winner in the first legislative district race by Tuesday night.