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Sanders supporters to ‘Occupy Board of Elections,’ watch Erie County ballot count

Local supporters of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign will watch Thursday when outstanding ballots from last week’s New York State primary election are tabulated, even as Hillary Clinton extends her lead over the Vermont senator in Erie County.

Facebook posts in recent days have advertised an “Occupy Board of Elections” event outside the board’s offices at 134 W. Eagle St. The posts have expressed dissatisfaction with registration rules and other election law aspects.

Absentee ballots counted over the past few days padded Clinton’s slim lead of 705 votes, which was unofficially reported April 19. The former secretary of state now leads Sanders 53,712 to 51,690, Democratic Elections Commissioner Leonard R. Lenihan said.

“She picked up about 1,300 votes with about two-thirds of the absentee ballots,” he said.

Four elections board teams will begin reviewing affidavits that determine the validity of ballots cast by voters whose names do not appear in registration books at local polling places, Lenihan said. The review determines if the voter is still eligible to cast a ballot.

Sanders representatives will watch the process.

“They want to observe how we determine affidavit ballots,” Lenihan said. “If it is not a valid ballot, it will be discarded.”

Brian Nowak, local head of the Sanders campaign, said his volunteers will be on hand to observe and make sure as many ballots as possible are counted.

Leaders of the “Occupy Board of Elections” event were unavailable, but Lenihan said any protesters are free to demonstrate their feelings outside the board offices.