LOCKPORT – A lawsuit over the Lewiston highway superintendent election was settled amicably Thursday, with a victory for Republican incumbent Douglas A. Janese.
Janese ended up with a seven-vote victory over Democrat David J. Trane, after the sides agreed that nine more disputed affidavit ballots should be opened and counted, and a disputed absentee ballot, added to Janese’s total after a previous counting session, should stand.
The final tally was Janese 1,771, Trane 1,764. Janese received six of the nine votes tallied Thursday in a jury room at State Supreme Court in Lockport.
Trane filed a lawsuit over the Niagara County Board of Elections’ decision to disallow some of the affidavit ballots cast by voters who claimed to be registered but whose names weren’t in the poll books.
In all, 14 such ballots were set aside before a Nov. 10 session in which board staffers opened absentee ballots and added them to the total. After that session, Trane, who had led by 29 votes on Election Night Nov. 3, ended up losing by 3.
Trane’s lawsuit sought to have 11 of the 14 affidavits counted, and also challenged an absentee ballot that was belatedly found in the Board of Elections office. That vote had been opened and turned out to be for Janese, giving him a four-vote edge.
The sides came to court Thursday, ready to duke it out before Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. But while waiting to be called before the judge, the attorneys and the election commissioners worked out a deal.
Trane’s attorney, former County Legislator Jason J. Cafarella, conceded that two of the 11 affidavit ballots were properly disallowed. One was cast by a man who had moved from Niagara Falls to Lewiston but never registered his change of address; the other was cast by a voter whose registration had been properly canceled for not voting in two consecutive federal elections.
The sides also agreed that the “found” absentee ballot was good. “It was in a locked cabinet at the board, where it was supposed to be,” said Janese’s attorney, Damon A. DeCastro.
That left nine affidavit ballots that all parties agreed to have opened. The election commissioners said they were not conceding that those votes shouldn’t have been disallowed in the first place.
“We’re expediting the process. We’re not conceding anything,” Democratic Commissioner Lora A. Allen said.
“I think there was striking an accord,” Cafarella said. “I don’t accept it as the Board of Elections or Mr. Janese agreeing they made a mistake.” But he said at least some of the votes were improperly disallowed. He said some of the would-be voters didn’t check the correct party affiliation, which Cafarella said might be a reason for throwing votes in a primary, but not in a general election.
Janese and Trane shook hands after the votes were counted and Janese won his fourth four-year term.
“I think my opponent has been a gentleman through the entire thing,” Jamese said. “There shouldn’t be a loser.” “I believe we did a good job,” Trane said. “You’ve got to give it a shot.”
The newly counted ballots did not change the outcome of the Town Board race. Former Assemblywoman Francine Delmonte had been eight votes behind Robin Morreale, a fellow Democrat, for the second board seat, but only two of the nine ballots opened Thursday contained votes for Delmonte.