11/23/11 12:00pm

Supervisor Jim Dougherty deserves congratulations for his win in the supervisor race and the town Democratic Committee deserves credit for doing a great job reaching out to absentee voters this fall, banking on a majority of them to turn the tide if things did not go so well for the supervisor on Election Day.

They didn’t. He lost three of four districts. But Mr. Dougherty creamed his two opponents among absentee voters, whom one candidate was heard this week to quip constituted the Island’s “fifth district, the Upper West Side.” According to unofficial results, he won 142 absentee votes while Glenn Waddington garnered only 58 and Bob DeStefano took 57. Mr. Dougherty’s spread of 84 votes over Mr. Waddington was more than enough to overcome the supervisor’s 61-vote deficit against him on Election Day.

Some of his opponents thought he’d never pull that off. Sixty-one votes on Election Day, they said, could not be canceled out by the approximately 300 absentee returns uncounted in the three-way race. But local Democratic insiders seemed to know something that the other politicos didn’t. As Democratic Chair Heather Reylek said last week in an email to supporters, Mr. Dougherty was “very much still in the race” as the Board of Elections prepared to count the absentees. One seasoned observer privately predicted Mr. Dougherty would win because of the solid block of Democrats registered to vote on the Island, who were unlikely to wander from the party line to vote for an independent or Republican.

It’s true that Islanders have been known to hop around on their ballots — the case in point this year is Republican Peter Reich, who clearly drew some Democratic votes. But as the absentee count added up, the two candidates who trailed among the home-bound locals on Election Day — Democrats Dan Fokine and Ian Weslek — did very well, narrowing the gap between them and the top vote-getters. That’s the retiree, second-home owner, snowbird Democratic base at work. A lot of those voters followed the party line and they were not fazed by, or perhaps even aware of, Mr. Dougherty’s troubles as Town Board members (not just Mr. Waddington) challenged and criticized him this summer and fall. They aren’t people who follow every twist and turn of Town Board meetings and spats over the quality and completeness of Mr. Dougherty’s budget proposal.

That doesn’t make them any less a part of the Island’s life, heart and soul than people who live and work here. Shelter Island’s economy depends on second-home owners; few if any businesses here could survive without them. That’s not the only reason to count them in as part of the Island’s identity: they love the Island in their own way — otherwise they wouldn’t bother to vote here.

Some people may look at the results of the supervisor race and think it shows an Island divided against itself. That’s all wrong. Think again.

11/22/11 7:38pm

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | Supervisor Jim Dougherty at the American Legion Hall on Election Night, when he was behind in the count.

Supervisor Jim Dougherty, stunning his challengers, easily overcame an Election Day deficit to win a third two-year term with 41.5 percent of the vote as the Board of Elections finished its count of absentee and affidavit ballots in the supervisor race on Friday.

Mr. Dougherty is the first supervisor to win a third term since Democrat Hoot Sherman in 1995 and only the third to do so since perennial incumbent, Republican Evans Griffing in the 1950s and 1960s.

Mr. Dougherty, trailing by a 61-vote margin on Election Night, beat his two challengers in the absentee voting by a margin of more than two to one. The total absentee and affidavit count, unofficially, was 153 for Mr. Dougherty, with Mr. Waddington and Mr. DeStefano tied at 62. There was one write-in vote for Roy Pellicano and one for Batman. Twenty-two ballots that were challenged on Friday during the count process are included in the totals. Mr. Dougherty took half of them.

Mr. Dougherty, who ran on the Democratic, Independence and Working Families lines, won the election with a 30-vote lead over Island Unity Party and Conservative candidate Mr. Waddington, 641 votes to 611 or 41.5 percent to 39.8 percent. Republican Bob DeStefano’s total was 283 votes or 18.4 percent, according to unofficial numbers.

In the council race, Election Day’s apparent victors held on to win after the absentee and affidavit ballot count was completed Monday.

Incumbent Republican Peter Reich held his wide Election Day lead in the five-way race for two seats, winning 709 or 24.8 percent of the votes cast in the race. Independent Paul Shepherd remained the other winner, in second place, but the 65-vote lead he held over third-place Will Anderson, a Republican, on Election Night shrank to 42 votes as a result of the absentee count. Mr. Shepherd finished with 585 votes to Mr. Anderson’s 543.

Democrat Dan Fokine ran a very close fourth with 541 votes and Democrat Ian Weslek gained 37 votes in the absentee count to finish with 476.

Absentee and affidavit results  in other races and on Proposition One — to reduce council terms from four to two years — were not available by press time. They were not expected to affect Election Day results: Democrat Jay Card led the race for highway superintendent by 132 votes and the proposition was defeated by a margin of more than  200 votes.

The Board of Elections was not expected to certify and officially announce all results until later this week.

Assessors Al Hammond and BJ Ianfol were re-elected without opposition as was tax receiver Nancy Kotula, all with well over 1,000 votes each.

THANKS VOTERS

Asked for comment, Supervisor Dougherty on Monday wrote in an email: “I was told last spring that three-way races aren’t easy for either the candidates or the voters and I found this campaign fascinating in that regard. Nonetheless, we got our message out and Shelter Island voters showed their mettle once again, turning out in record numbers — close to 70 percent of registered voters — to record their preference.

“Observing the absentee ballot count in Yaphank Friday, I was inspired by the efforts of close to 300 of our fellow  Shelter Islanders to participate in our election,” he said, referring to the total number of absentee ballots cast, “notwithstanding illness, work and family obligations and other factors preventing them from going to the polls November 8. Democracy on Shelter Island is alive and well and I thank every voter, whether they voted for me or one of my opponents, for contributing to this accomplishment.”

He added, “We will have a new face at the table January 3 and I welcome Paul Shepherd to our team. Paul has done his homework, researching issues and participating in our meetings, and I look forward to working with him.”

A SWEEP FOR SUPERVISOR

Among absentee voters, Mr. Dougherty took all four Island election districts by wide margins ranging from nearly 49 percent in Election District 2 — the Center, considered a stronghold for Mr. Waddington — to 63 percent in Election District 3, the Heights. On Election Day, he won only in Election District 1 — Ram Island and Hay Beach, considered his stronghold -— with about 47 percent of the vote there. Mr. Waddington took the other three districts on Election Day by margins ranging from 44 to 49 percent.

Of the 22 absentee ballots that were contested for flaws ranging from unsealed envelopes to missing postmarks or signatures, Mr. Dougherty eventually won 11, Mr. Waddington 4 and Mr. DeStefano 6.

Mr. Waddington and his election advisor Wayne Bourne realized on Friday that Mr. Waddington could not win even if all those challenged ballots eventually went to him. That made any court challenge over the contested ballots irrelevant, Mr. Bourne later said, leading to Mr. Waddington’s concession and making Mr. Dougherty’s win a certainty.

“It is over and I lost,” Mr. Waddington wrote in an email on Monday. “The absentees beat me.”

“I feel pretty bad about letting so many people down but am proud of the campaign we ran,” Mr. Waddington continued. “I think it was tight, clean and the message was clear. We did pretty well going up against the two major parties and I do not think Jim won by any kind of mandate” because a majority voted against him. “I will certainly work the absentees harder next time I run.”

Mr. Waddington will continue working as senior captain at South Ferry. He said in an interview on Monday that he would run for supervisor again in 2013.

Mr. Waddington and Mr. DeStefano fared poorly in the absentee balloting, both winning only 22.38 percent compared to Mr. Dougherty’s 55.25 percent.

Asked to comment on her candidate’s win, Heather Reylek, chair of the town’s Democratic Committee, cited the high turnout and high number of absentee ballots — both of which were goals for her committee as its workers made contact this fall with potential voters and helped them apply for absentee ballots.

“I think that the following considerations are important in regard to our Campaign 2011,” Ms. Reylek said. “There was a wonderful turnout of approximately 68.2 percent. The increase in the number of absentee ballots (there were 261 to be counted at the recanvass) is a reflection of that turnout.”

NOT A RECORD TURNOUT

A total of 1,537 ballots were cast in the supervisor race this year compared to 1,290 in 2009 when two independents, Mr. Shepherd and Bill Smith, challenged Mr. Dougherty; he won with nearly 71 percent of the vote. The turnout was not quite as high as in 2005, the first year Mr. Dougherty ran, when 1,547 ballots were cast in the supervisor race. Mr. Dougherty won about 57 percent of the vote then to 43 percent for Joyce Bausman.

“Of those absentee ballots, there was a near equal distribution of Republican and Democratic ballots,” Ms. Reylek said in her email, meaning a nearly equal number of registered Republicans and Democrats had filed requests for ballots. A number of those sent out were not returned.

“The turnout increase can also be attributed to the proposal to change the council term,” Ms. Reylek said, referring to Proposition One, which called for cutting the council term from four years to two and which was defeated by a wide margin. “The voters did not want that change. Anytime there is a three-way race for one seat, it becomes problematic in predictions. I always said that it would be a very tight race.”

She added in her email, which she sent before the council absentee count had been finished, “I believe that the voter support for Jim Dougherty and Peter Reich was support for experience and fiscal responsibility. Economic times are still very uncertain. I also think that there will be a surprising increase in votes for Fokine and Anderson once the final results [in the council race] are tallied. That one open council seat gave the voters,” she said, referring to the seat being vacated by Mr. Waddington, “an opportunity to vote for new ideas and more diverse representation.”

11/22/11 7:36pm

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTOS | Some 282 absentee and affadavit ballots were counted on Friday, November 19 at the Suffolk County Board of Elections in Yaphank. The count cost Glenn Waddington (center right, with Democratic Chair Heather Reylek beside him) his lead and the election.

A look at the absentee ballot counting process

It took nine hours to count Shelter Island’s 282 absentee, affidavit, and unscanned ballots at the Suffolk County Board of Elections building in Yaphank on Friday.

The count began at 10:30 a.m., though two of the supervisor candidates, Jim Dougherty and Glenn Waddington, arrived at the BOE building at 9:00 a.m. Except for a few glimpses, Mr. Dougherty was not in evidence in the large warehouse-like room where the absentee ballots were counted.

Despite the sense of victory he and his supporters celebrated on Election Night, when he had a 61-vote lead, Mr. Waddington said he’d become especially nervous in the days leading up to the absentee count. “I’d wake up at 2 in the morning and not be able to go back to sleep,” he said.

During those days, Mr. Waddington said he had reviewed names of those who had requested absentee ballots to guess which way the vote might go. “You can drive yourself crazy looking at all the absentees,” he said.
Part of Mr. Waddington’s campaign effort, he said, had been asking Shelter Island students away at college for their votes.
Soon after they arrived, Mr. Waddington and Wayne Bourne, who assisted him with the vote count and Board of Elections matters, were invited into the office of the Republican Deputy Commissioner, Bill Ellis. Mr. Ellis told Mr. Waddington, “This whole thing will be on the absentees.” What made the race particularly hard to predict, Mr. Ellis said, was Shelter Islanders’ habit of cross-party voting.

Back in the lobby, Cathy and Neil Raymond of the Conservative Party said, “We’re here for Glenn and Paul,” referring to council candidate Paul Shepherd. Both had Conservative Party support.

Suffolk County Board of Elections inspectors pass around ballots during the count on Friday.

Ms. Raymond said she was there to oversee the process to make sure that it remained honest.

Mr. Shepherd, who had arrived by about 10, asked when he would be able to go into the back room as a candidate and was told by a Board of Elections worker that he would have to wait until he’d been cleared. He was allowed in 20 minutes later.

At about 10:30 a.m., several spectators to the count, including two reporters, were guided by a board employee from the lobby into the large back-room warehouse with a pitched ceiling and long fluorescent lights. This was where election counts and recanvasses were being held not only for Shelter Island but other towns including Southampton, Islip and East Hampton.
Inside the large room, board inspectors and employees, lawyers and candidates could be seen through stacks of shelves filled with files and boxes. Overhead, a giant American flag hung from the ceiling. To the left was a hallway that housed the entrance to the cafeteria and to the right there was a table where a security guard sat.

More than 10 long, rectangular tables with metal folding chairs were set up throughout the room for individual counts. The area for spectators was more than 5 yards away but the Reporter’s representative was given a table about 4 feet from the action at the tables with strict rules not to deviate from the spot. Shelter Island’s table, close to the metal shelves, was about 6 feet long and 3 feet wide, only a quarter the size of most others. Two board inspectors sat on one side. They ran the count.

Setting up the small, rectangular table for a three-way race took a bit of adjustment. The staff was initially confused and insisted there be four people at the table: two people from each major party.

“But it’s a three-way race,” said attorney Bob DeStefano Jr., who wanted to sit at the table to represent his father, Republican candidate Bob DeStefano. One board inspector made sure that each side was represented.

Across from the board inspectors were Heather Reylek, chairman of the Democratic Committee, candidate Glenn Waddington and his advisor Mr. Bourne. Two other attorneys were intermittently involved on the Democrats’ behalf. Sometimes Democratic volunteer Mary Dwyer switched places with Ms. Reylek. Attorney Vincent Messina of Central Islip, who represented Mr. Waddington and three other clients involved in other town counts, sometimes appeared at the table. At opposite ends of the table sat attorney Joe DeVincent of Islip for the Democrats and Bob DeStefano Jr.

At about 10:30 a.m., the ballots, in plastic bags, were brought to the table by Board of Elections employees, beginning with the Island’s Election District 1. All four districts would not be counted until about 7:45 Friday evening.

The process for counting ballots began, district by district, with the unopened ballots being passed around the table, one by one. Challenges could be made for defects such as an unsealed or non-postmarked envelope. To make a challenge, a yellow slip of paper explaining the reason for the challenge had to be filled out by the challenger and then stapled to the ballot.

After the inspectors opened the envelopes and removed the ballots, they were passed around one by one to the observers at the table. They included ballots that were accompanied by signed affidavits attesting to the voter’s legal right to participate. Reasons to challenge a ballot included the use of pencil, ballots with missing information and mis-matched dates or signatures. When a signature was challenged, the BOE brought up the person’s signature from its computerized database to make sure it matched the name on the envelope.

Challenged ballots, which totaled 22 by the end of the day, were put in a separate pile. The inspectors then tallied the remaining ballots, by then separated from any envelope or affidavit that could identify who cast them, by party line.

The entire process was repeated four times, once for each district.

Counting the first district took an hour and a half on Friday. It broke to Mr. Dougherty with 44 votes to Mr. Waddington’s 18, bringing the overall election margin to 35 votes in favor of Mr. Waddington. Mr. Waddington said at noon’s lunch break, “I’m three districts out and I’m still holding a pretty good lead.”

District 2’s numbers were opened at 2:30. “I lost the Center,” Mr. Waddington said after the count. He said he remained guardedly optimistic but worried as he was “27 votes up with two big districts to go.”

District 3 had 63 absentee ballots and 2 affidavit ballots as well as 2 unscanned ballots, which had gone into an emergency slot of the scanning machine on Election Night. The unscanned votes were presented in a separate bag.

As the counting process went on, it looked as if Mr. Waddington’s margin was shrinking further.

Democratic incumbent Jim Dougherty approached the table at about 3:15. Asked if he was optimistic, Mr. Dougherty answered, “Whatever the voters decide.”

Mr. Waddington, asked about his status in the race at 4:15 p.m., said, “My margin is shrinking.” At 4:30 p.m. a write-in vote for Batman was challenged by Democratic attorney DeVincent. “Seriously?” asked Republican attorney Messina.

Mr. DeVincent announced at 4:51 p.m., “It’s a 3-vote race at this point.”

Mr. Dougherty appeared some distance from the table at 5:10 p.m, for a few seconds, smiling.

“District 3 destroyed me,” Mr. Waddington said. Referring to District 4, he added, “If he spanks me by 30 votes in this district, that’s more than the number of challenges and I’ll take the advice of the attorney.”

A host of objections was made by the Waddington camp between 5:30 and 5:45 p.m.

At 5:46 p.m., Mr. Waddington began his personal concession process. “It might be nice to go back to just worrying about the wind and the tide,” he said.

There were 68 absentee ballots in District 4, 8 affidavits and 10 objections, for a total of 66 counted ballots. The count was complete at about 7:15 p.m.: 37 for Mr. Dougherty, 19 for Mr. DeStefano and 10 for Mr. Waddington.
Mr. Waddington’s team requested that all 22 challenged ballots be opened by the Board of Election’s two commissioners, though Mr. Waddington would lose even if all of them went his way.

As of Friday, Mr. Dougherty was leading with 630 votes to 607 for Mr. Waddington, with 278 for Mr. DeStefano.

Democratic Commissioner Anita Katz said Friday that she expected to review the challenged ballots with Republican Commissioner Wayne Rogers on Monday. (She did so and 11 went to Mr. Dougherty, 6 to Mr. DeStefano and 4 for Mr. Waddington.)

Town Board candidate Paul Shepherd, who ran on the Local Liberty and Conservative ballot lines, was also present at Yaphank on Friday to witness the town council count, which began in the afternoon at another table. No other council candidate attended the count.

Mr. Shepherd said he feared absentee ballot counts because they are “a nightmare for Independents” because of “a lot of straight line voting.”

Mr. Shepherd sat with Neil and Cathy Raymond as the three kept track of the numbers. After District 1 was counted, Mr. Shepherd said the next-highest vote getter in the five-way race, Will Anderson, was carrying the absentees by a “two to one” vote margin. “If that persists,” he said, “it’s going to be a long day.”

He held his own in District 2, he reported later.

Mr. Shepherd said of the process, “This isn’t like sports — it’s brutal.” He likened the experience to getting a bikini wax.

Mr. Shepherd left at the 5:50 p.m. dinner break with what looked like a comfortable lead. “I’m alive, looks like I’m going to make it. Am I going to make it? I think I’ve got enough,” Mr. Shepherd said, ready to celebrate. “I’ve got a cigar screaming at me,” he said.

11/17/11 10:04am

Candidates, party workers and lawyers were expected to be on hand at the Board of Elections in Yaphank Friday when the board was to begin recanvassing last Tuesday’s election results and count 265 absentee ballots and 12 affidavit ballots that could change the outcome of the supervisor race.

It originally had been expected the Shelter Island count would take place Thursday but it was postponed as the Board of Elections deals with other towns and legislative races.

“Jim Dougherty is absolutely still in the race,” Democratic Committee Chair Heather Reylek told supporters in an email last week. “As with the Bishop campaign last year, the results hinge on absentee ballots and affidavits.”

Congressman Tim Bishop’s reelection victory in 2010 came a month after Election Day when his opponent, Republican Randy Altschuler, conceded defeat, trailing in the recount by 263 votes out of nearly 200,000. It was the last House of Representatives race to be decided in last year’s mid-term elections.

Ms. Reylek said in her email there would be “very experienced attorneys observing and advising” as the absentee and affidavit ballots are opened and counted. She predicted that the results won’t be certified for several weeks but “we’ll have a good idea of the results by the end of next week,” meaning by Friday, November 18.

The Shelter Island count could be delayed further as the Board of Elections first audits and counts ballots in legislative races and in the larger towns, a spokesperson for Board of Elections Commissioner Wayne T. Rogers said Monday.

Republican Committee Chair Amber Williams on Monday predicted that the results of Tuesday’s machine vote will hold but that supervisor candidate Glenn Waddington’s 61-vote margin over incumbent Jim Dougherty will narrow as absentee ballots are counted. Absentee ballots on the Island tend to be cast by part-time residents who tend to vote Democratic. She estimated that Mr. Dougherty would have to win nearly 60 percent of the ballots to take the lead and she considered that unlikely.

Councilman Peter Reich, in a phone interview, predicted that Mr. Waddington would win but his lead would shrink to 20 to 25 votes.

Ms. Williams said Town Board candidate Paul Shepherd’s lead over third-place candidate, Republican Will Anderson, might shrink, too, but she said she didn’t expect a turnaround in the race.

On Election night, political strategist and Glenn Waddington supporter Wayne Bourne warned that absentee ballots had been cast before Supervisor Dougherty “blew himself up” — an apparent reference to public strife with other Town Board members over his initial budget proposal. But he predicted Mr. Waddington would retain the lead after they were counted.

After last Tuesday’s machine count, according to the Board of Elections, Island Unity Party candidate Glenn Waddington was leading in the three-way supervisor’s race by 61 votes, 549 or 43.6 percent, to incumbent Dougherty’s 488 or 38.76 percent, with Republican Bob DeStefano in third place with 221 votes or 17.55 percent. In the five-way Town Board race for two seats, Mr. Reich, a two-term incumbent, was in the lead with 575 votes or 24.64 percent followed by Local Liberty Party candidate Paul Shepherd with 518 or 22.2 percent (he and Mr. Reich also had Conservative Party backing, as did Glenn Waddington); Republican Will Anderson followed with 453 votes or 19.41 percent. Mr. Dougherty’s Democratic and Independence Party running-mates Dan Fokine and Ian Weslek followed with 426 and 366 votes, respectively. (Mr. Weslek also had the Working Families ballot line, as did Mr. Dougherty.) These are the same numbers reported last week by party runners, who brought results from the polling center at the school to three party gatherings on Election Night.