Former Southampton Town supervisor candidate Phil Keith revealed this week that in the days after the Conservative Party primary last month, it was discovered that two registered Republicans appeared to have cast write-in ballots illegally in a race decided by a single vote.
Held on September 10, the primary was open to members of the Conservative Party only. On September 20, the party’s leadership asked for a recount of the ballots on the basis of evidence pointing to two fraudulent votes, but the request was turned down by the Suffolk County Board of Elections.
Mr. Keith—who revealed the incident in his “Mostly Right” column in this edition of The Southampton Press—and Conservative Party leaders chose not to file a court challenge to the election results, which were certified by the Board of Elections on September 24.
Republican Linda Kabot won the primary by a single vote, 73-72, over Mr. Keith. All votes were cast by write-in ballot.
“The Suffolk County Conservative Party made this request on behalf of the candidate,” Southampton Town Councilman Jim Malone, the head of the Conservative Party in the town, said this week of the objections raised. “What [the BOE] expressed was that with the time constraints between September 23 and the drop-dead date of October 1, they were powerless to take any action. Even if there was judicial intervention, even if it was immediate, the BOE could not put a new primary together in seven days. So, at the end of the day, there was no remedy.”
The Board of Elections certified the results of the vote after reviewing other challenges, also filed by Conservative Party leaders, to six votes cast in favor of Ms. Kabot that were questioned because they misspelled or left out some part of Ms. Kabot’s name.
But a letter to the Board of Elections, which was shared with The Press this week by the Conservative Party, pointed out two irregularities in the voter participation rolls submitted by poll workers the night of the primaries that may have compromised the integrity of the votes cast in two election districts. The voter participation rolls contained the names of one voter in Election District 9, which is in Hampton Bays, and another in Election District 28, which comprises parts of North Sea and northern Southampton. According to the letter, neither voter is a registered Conservative, but both appear to have been given ballots for the Conservative race by the polling place workers nonetheless.
There were two Republican races on the ballot on primary night, for Suffolk County sheriff and district attorney, in which only Republican Party members were to be allowed to cast ballots. The ballots for the respective races were different, in both color and content, containing columns only for the races each party was mounting that night. To receive a party ballot, voters would have had to identify themselves to poll workers as members of the party and asked to be given a ballot for that party’s vote.
Board of Elections officials declined to comment on the questions of improper voting having taken place.
There is no way to determine from the ballots how the two men voted, since the actual ballots are not marked in way that could identify who cast them. Neither could be reached for comment this week.
In Election District 9, there were three votes cast for Ms. Kabot, one for Mr. Keith, and one for another name. In Election District 28, there were four votes cast for Mr. Keith, four for Ms. Kabot, and two for other names.
Ms. Kabot said that she was not aware of the accusation of impropriety in the voting. Mr. Keith said in his column that he does not think the former supervisor could have been aware of it.
By winning the primary, Ms. Kabot won the right to have her name placed on the Conservative Party line in the supervisor column on the November 5 ballot, even though she did not have the support of the party’s leadership. Her Republican Party running mates, Jeff Mansfield and Stan Glinka, also will have their names on the party’s line, by virtue of their endorsements by the party’s county chairman, Ed Walsh.
Ms. Kabot successfully had the party’s chosen supervisor candidate, Howard Heckman III, disqualified as a candidate for not having enough valid signatures on a nominating petition, then forced the write-in primary.
One week before the primary vote, the party’s leadership said that it was supporting Mr. Keith as the name it would prefer that party members write in for the supervisor’s post, rather than Ms. Kabot’s.