A judge today ordered that election officials in Erie and Chautauqua counties begin counting machine and paper ballots in the disputed congressional race between Democrat Brian M. Higgins and Republican Nancy A. Naples.
State Supreme Court Justice Erin M. Peradotto lifted a temporary restraining order that had impounded voting machines and halted the process.
Higgins has a 4,000-vote lead in the 27th Congressional District race, with between 8,000 and 15,000 absentee, provisional and paper ballots to be counted. Naples brought the action and requested court supervision of the vote count because of the closeness of the hotly contested race.
Laurence F. Adamczyk, Erie County Democratic elections commissioner, and Ralph M. Mohr, his GOP counterpart, both agreed it will be Thanksgiving week before normal canvassing procedures are completed and a winner is declared.
Dennis E. Ward, attorney for the Higgins campaign, doubted there will be any change in the percentage for either candidate.
"It's over," Ward said.
Erie County Republican Chairman Robert E. Davis said, "Right now we're just trying to ensure the integrity of the outcome."
Today's hearing set up supervision of the counting process by Peradotto.
"We're going to lay out a plan about what the Board of Elections will do to count the ballots," Mohr said. "We're hoping to proceed in a way that will have a fairly orderly recount."
Naples refused to concede late Tuesday night after falling behind in the contest for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Jack F. Quinn Jr.
The Higgins camp, meanwhile, is going about the business of acting like a winner -- with some insiders even beginning to talk about possible staff positions.
Suzanne Anziska, campaign spokeswoman for Higgins, said there should be no reason for an intensive examination of absentee and other paper ballots because of Higgins' clear victory.
"The people of the 27th District have chosen," Anziska said Wednesday. "She needs 80 percent of the absentee ballots to win and she's not going to get 80 percent."