WATERTOWN — The City Council plans to approve a resolution on Monday that urges the Jefferson County Board of Elections to conduct a hand-count to decide a tie in the June 25 mayoral primary.
Council members hope to break the primary stalemate that left mayoral candidates Allison I. Crossman and Councilman Cody Horbacz tied for second place with 597 votes each. Former Councilman Jeffrey M. Smith had the most votes with 837 votes.
Councilwoman Lisa A. Ruggiero said Wednesday that it would be fair for both candidates.
“I would think it’s the thing to do,” she said. “Then we could see what we get.”
If it doesn’t change things, council members “would take the next step,” she said.
The issue stems from the mayoral race being nonpartisan, and the city’s law doesn’t have a provision in place for ties. Republican Election Commissioner Jude R. Seymour and Democratic Election Commissioner Babette M. Hall disagreed on what to do about the tie.
Mr. Seymour thinks they only have a mandate to certify Mr. Smith — although he has said he expects a court will settle the matter — while Ms. Hall calls for all three candidates to be on the ballot.
It would still take the election commissioners to agree to count the votes by hand. They could not be reached on Wednesday night.
On Tuesday, City Attorney Robert J. Slye said city voters should choose from three candidates on the ballot in November’s mayoral election.
Mr. Slye said it should be up to City Council members to decide the matter.
Asked about the hand-recount idea, Councilman Horbacz said it was “the logical step” to take, saying he “looks forward to finality in the race.”
Pointing out it would be a conflict, he said he cannot vote on the resolution that will go before his colleagues on Monday night. He won’t even take part in the discussion that night, he said.
Mrs. Crossman remains frustrated that the election commissioners aren’t following “clear language” in the city’s nonpartisan election law,
She reiterated the opinion of her lawyer, John Ciampoli, Albany, who has said that the city’s law makes it clear that all three candidates should be on the ballot.
The issue revolves around a reading of the city nonpartisan election law, which says “the board of elections shall certify under the hand of its secretary or commissioners the names of the persons who received the largest and next largest number of votes for mayor.”
Mrs. Crossman pointed out that the law does not list how many “persons” must be put on the ballot.
She’s also concerned that about the situation costing more money, saying that would happen with a hand-count.
Jefferson County Chairman Scott A. Gray said Wednesday that the county runs elections and doesn’t decide them.
“We’re not the arbiter of the law,” he said, stressing the state Board of Elections should tell the county board what to do about the situation.
Mr. Gray predicts the matter will end up in the courts.
County Attorney David J. Paulsen said he cannot get involved in the situation because he cannot represent one election commissioner over another when the two are disagreeing with each other.
“I’m still looking into it,” Mr. Paulsen said.
County legislator Anthony J. Doldo remembered that his first race for the city legislator’s seat six years ago ended up going to a recount.
He was nine votes down to incumbent James D. St. Croix Sr. on election night. After the hand recount, he still lost to the legislator.
He was surprised when the two election commissioners didn’t decide this time to go with a hand-count.
The hand-count might also not change things, he warned.
“I still lost,” he said. “The machines didn’t change anything.”