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Political parties, elections officials scrutinize Cape Vincent absentee count details

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In the race to control the Cape Vincent Town Council, every ballot, every detail, counts.

Cape Vincent Republican Councilman John L. Byrne III maintains that Democratic candidate Paul F. Aubertine had too many people representing him during a canvass of absentee ballots at the Jefferson County Board of Elections office Wednesday. As the saga unfolds and ballot counting continues, Republican Town Supervisor Urban Hirschey now leads Democratic challenger Alan N. Wood.

Board of Elections officials say Mr. Byrne is confusing a board policy with state election law, which takes precedence.

According to an internal policy created by Republican Election Commissioner Jerry O. Eaton and then-Democratic Election Commissioner Sean M. Hennessey in 2009, a candidate may be represented by only one person during the counting of ballots.

And, according to Mr. Byrne, Mr. Aubertine was represented by Jarrod M. Radley, Timothy L. White and Frank G. Hoare, noted Albany elections attorney and former executive director of the state Democratic Committee.

Indeed, candidate representative authorization forms show that Mr. Radley, Mr. White and Mr. Hoare all swore to be representatives of Mr. Aubertine.

But Mr. Eaton and Democratic Commissioner Babette M. Hall say that is immaterial, citing state election law, which holds that each candidate, political party and independent body may have as many representatives as they are allowed to have at polling sites on election night — in this case, three.

The election commissioners acknowledged that they may have to amend their internal policy, which was created ahead of the 2010 congressional race to manage such prosaic concerns as how many people could reasonably fit around a table where ballot tabulation was taking place.

Mr. Wood reacted with incredulity to Mr. Byrne’s accusations.

“Are you kidding me?” he said, adding that he felt the Republicans were overrepresented at the table where the absentee count was being conducted.

On election night, Mr. Wood was leading Mr. Hirschey 501-426.

Mr. Eaton said the unofficial count of absentee ballots could change the outcome of that race.

At this point, unofficial results show Mr. Hirschey with a comfortable lead over Mr. Wood, according to Mr. Eaton.

The races for the two open Town Council seats are more difficult to call, election officials said.

Election night results showed Mr. Aubertine in the lead with 542 votes, followed by Democrat Dennis W. Pearson with 497 votes. Republican incumbents Brooks J. Bragdon and Michelle T. Oswald came in third and fourth with 406 and 386 votes, respectively.

Absentee ballots and envelopes that were challenged Wednesday were set aside. If neither party decides to take legal action to block the ballots, the Board of Elections will count them Tuesday.

In other races, absentee ballots changed the outcome of the race for highway superintendent of the town of Alexandria.

Unofficial results show Jeremy C. Durand triumphing over Andrew A. Davis 604-603.

Election night totals had Mr. Davis ahead 578-537.

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