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Judge: Tally of Challenged Ballots to Start on Wednesday

With 215 votes reportedly separating Bishop and Altschuler, race will come down to challenged ballots.

A Suffolk County Supreme Court judge will travel to the Board of Elections in Yaphank on Wednesday to begin reviewing absentee and affidavit ballots that have been challenged by both candidates in the First Congressional District race.

Lawyers representing Rep. Tim Bishop, D - Southampton, and Republican challenger Randy Altschuler met in the courtroom of Hon. Peter Mayer early on Tuesday afternoon. Both sides discussed their attempts to cut out some of over 2,000 challenged ballots - a process Bishop spokesman - though it still remains unsure how long the process may take.

Following 71 military votes counted on Tuesday morning, Bishop holds a lead of 215, with over 185,000 votes cast, Schneider said.

Vincent J. Messina, representing Altschuler, initially shook his head when asked if Wednesday afternoon at 3:00 would be early enough for judicial review of the ballots to begin. Messina stated that both Commissioners of the Board of Elections must rule that the objected ballots are ready to go to the courts, which has yet to be done. Both sides agreed to try and continue working down the number of challenged ballots Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning, and will reconvene at Wednesday 11:30 a.m. to verify the afternoon commencement of judicial review.

Messina stated that 200 challenged ballots were agreed upon by both sides to be withdrawn, and would be opened after 1:00 Tuesday afternoon. He also said "at least" an additional 200 have been proposed for withdrawal.

Among those proposed for withdrawal are a group of 31 Stony Brook University students. All student votes were originally challenged, Messina said, because they were cast with an affidavit ballot.

Thomas Garry, representing Bishop, said that his legal team will be ready to count Wednesday afternoon. Citing the race as the final Congressional race in the nation to be decided, Garry made his case more than once that expediting the process should be of concern - though he tried "not to beleaguer the point," he said.

"You're bordering on that," Mayer said.

While Garry stated that many of the challenged votes can be grouped together into a "series of categories" and thus ruled on faster, Messina said that votes are "sensitive in each and every instance." Messina cited a report from the Fox News Voter Fraud Unit, circulated Monday night, which cited at least one instance of someone voting in two election districts on Nov. 2, a crime.

"These votes can't be ruled on with a broad brush," Messina said. "If called to task, we will be prepared and able to" defend these challenges.

Messina and Garry at one point tried speaking over one another to make their case to the judge, only to be hastily cut off. Litigation has yet to begin, Mayer said.

"We're in a legal colloquy here that's clearly premature," he said. "I'm going to indulge in this."

In addition to challenged ballots, lawyers said that 171 'emergency' ballots remain uncounted. For various reasons, those ballots were never scanned.

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