Dan Maffei’s re-election campaign for the 15th Congressional District of New York is giving the word recount a new definition.
With a 695 lead on her opponent, Ann Marie Buerkle was working toward leading her district, but was alerted on November 5th that there would be an attempt to recount the ballots and review the district’s absentee ballots. Despite audits already being processed of the machines by the regulations of the Board of Elections, Maffei’s campaign stated that it wasn’t enough and demanded that there be a comparison of the absentee ballots and the signatures on citizen’s identification cards. Stunned, Buerkle said in a recent interview that they are focusing on republican, married and senior citizen residents. The county they are focusing on for this review, Onodaga County, also raises eyebrows. Not only does the county make up sixty percent of the district, but Maffei’s campaign won the city of Syracuse, which is in the county and is attempting to see if absentee ballots from that area will give them the push required to win the seat. The review is in process and, as of November 11th, only a half tray of the 14 trays which hold 5700 absentee ballots have been checked and on that date each one was copied and objected to by the Maffei campaign. If a vote’s objection is won, it will not be counted.
“We want every eligible vote in this district counted and they are blocking that process,” Buerkle said. “They think they can win with absentees and are not acting in good faith.”
While Buerkle is attempting to supervise the situation with volunteers at the trays, Maffei has equipped himself with lawyers and paid interns that are doing more than just counting ballots. In addition to the paper audits, Maffei’s campaign has also been working to decipher by one-on-one interviews to decipher what absentee votes they should be objecting to. A district resident who asked to remain anonymous said she was approached on her front lawn by a man with a clipboard claiming to be from an organization called “Victory One” and asked to speak to her daughter. Away at college, the new voter was unavailable and she was asked who her daughter voted for. The mother answered it was for Buerkle and the person soon left her front door to get into a car down the road whose bumper clearly had a Maffei for Congress sticker.
The citizen who was canvassed by “Victory One” contacted the county board of elections when a representative of the Election Board contacted him, upset stating that the Maffei campaign said they were not canvassing “at the time [and] that the activity was coming from Washington.” The representative also stated that they have purchased new copiers just for the copies that have to be made.
When they came, “they gave no flyer or no card, they just asked questions,” the resident said. The Maffei Campaign has not been able to be reached for comment since Election Day. In fact, the office has cancelled public appearances. Buerkle, fully believing in her success past this recount is still publicly active in the district and plans to attend the Republican Freshman Orientation.
Questioned for comment, spokesman for the Maffei campaign Abigail Gardner said she was not “familiar” with Victory One and that there have been no recent events.
One of several races experiencing a post election challenge, it will be the courts that decide which challenged ballots are valid and whether to grant a full hand recount after the hand recount that is occurring today.
Currently, it seems that the incumbent is in a better position to win although the final count may not be known for weeks. According to Maffei’s campaign, the Democrat has gained 505 votes from the first day and half of those absentee ballots counted, which now has him trailing Republican challenger Buerkle by 303 votes.