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Court to hear challenge to Lewiston election results

LEWISTON – Lewiston Democrats aren’t taking the apparent defeat of their candidate for highway superintendent lying down.

Contending that absentee and affidavit ballots were improperly set aside, David J. Trane is suing the Niagara County Board of Elections in an effort to have those votes opened.

State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. signed a temporary restraining order Friday barring the Board of Elections from certifying the results of the contest between Trane and Republican incumbent Douglas A. Janese. The case is to be argued before Kloch on Thursday.

In a count of absentee and affidavit ballots Nov. 10, Trane’s 29-vote election night lead disappeared, and Janese was declared the winner, 1,764 to 1,761.

However, Diane M. Roberts, Lewiston Democratic chair, observed the count and questioned the board’s decision to reject 14 affidavit ballots.

Roberts said in a court affidavit that the election workers who handled the count told her that some of the affidavit ballots were disallowed because of “wrong party affiliation.” Roberts said she questioned what party affiliation has to do with the right to vote in a general election.

She said Commissioners Jennifer A. Fronczak, Republican, and Lora A. Allen, Democrat, took the ballots out of the room. They returned several minutes later and announced one would be counted, but not the others.

Other reasons given for disallowing the affidavit ballots included the contention that the forms were not filled out correctly, but Trane’s lawsuit offers specific reasons for counting 11 of the 14, asserting that there is nothing wrong with the forms.

Fronczak, on Nov. 10, also produced what Roberts said was a previously undocumented absentee ballot, which Fronczak said was cast at the board office before the election. That vote was counted, and it was for Janese. The Democrats want that vote disallowed and the contested affidavit ballots opened and counted.

Although the possibility is remote, the opened ballots also might have an impact on the Lewiston Town Board race, where former Assemblywoman Francine Delmonte was eight votes behind fellow Democrat Robin Morreale, 1,642 to 1,634, for the second of two available seats.

For Delmonte to win, enough ballots would have to be added to the total to overcome that margin, and Delmonte would have to be named on nine more ballots than Morreale in a race where voters were allowed to vote for two of the four candidates.