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Slisz squeezes out a win by 2 votes after hand recount

There may be few officeholders who understand the power of individual votes better than City of Tonawanda Councilman Richard A. Slisz.

Incumbent Slisz was declared the winner of the long-contested Third Ward Common Council contest against challenger Augustine R. Beyer late Friday -- by two votes. "It shows you every vote counts," Slisz, former chairman of the Erie County Legislature, said Saturday.

The Slisz-Beyer election has remained in limbo since November, when it appeared Beyer had won by one vote, and was sent to State Supreme Court. Various vote totals have been reported since then.

But Slisz attorney Peter A. Reese explained that both parties agreed on Friday for a hand recount, leading to the discovery of two more votes for Slisz. Reese said the two votes were discovered to have never been counted by the new voting machines.

"It was machine error," Reese said. "What we screamed about was exactly what we found."

After the pair of new votes was discovered, Beyer attorney Emilio Colaiacovo conceded late Friday that Slisz had won.

"That tells you the machines aren't perfect," Slisz said Saturday. "Without the recount, they never would have found it."

On Feb. 17, the Appellate Division in Rochester reversed State Supreme Court Justice Timothy J. Walker's previous decision turning down Slisz's request for an audit, reinstating Slisz's petition and ordering further proceedings.

Then on Friday, the parties reached a stipulated settlement to have a recount, according to Reese.

About 30 ballots out of the 900 cast did not register a vote for either candidate in the race, according to the automated results from the election. At issue were two ballots that ultimately went to Slisz. One had been stuck in a machine. The other, in which a vote appeared to be cast on the Working Families line, one of Slisz's lines, had the oval circled instead of filled in.

As a result, it was scanned by the tabulating machine as a null vote but, according to Reese, was clearly a vote that was meant to be cast for Slisz. As a result, Reese said, his client won the contest by two votes.

Reese said the case is expected to be officially ended in court on Monday, when a judge is expected to ask elections commissioners to certify the election.

Slisz is expected to be legally sworn in on Tuesday at a caucus, Reese said, and will formally take the oath of office on March 5.