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Orangetown Supervisor: Stewart Wins By Less than 1/100th Percent

OrangetownTownHall201310Nyack, Dec 11 — It took multiple trips to court, 42 days of waiting and six challenged absentee votes to determine who would be the next Orangetown Supervisor. After the final ballots were counted today, incumbent Andy Stewart (D) was declared the winner by the slimmest of margins: two votes or .009%. Stewart received 6,163 votes to 6,161 for challenger Walter Wettje (R).

Wettje declared victory on election night and held a slim lead of 36 votes, which in hindsight, sounds like a big lead. After the bulk of the absentee and provisional ballots were counted, Wettje’s lead was cut to 18 votes with 54 challenged ballots still in play. Stewart “surged” ahead taking a three vote lead into today’s final examination, cleared by Rockland County Supreme Court Judge Victor J. Alfieri, Jr decision to release all but six ballots. Although Stewart’s paper thin three vote lead was sliced by a third, he won re-election to Orangetown Supervisor with just one vote to spare.

And what a good thing that was that either Stewart or Wettje won. Because no one was quite sure what would happen in the case of a tie vote.  “In New Mexico, they settle split elections with a round of five-card poker. They draw lots in New Hampshire, draw high cards in Las Vegas and flip coins in Pennsylvania,” notes a March 2008 NYT story. Idle chatter on social media speculated that a “coin flip” would choose a winner in the case of a tie, but there’s no documentation to back up that claim. Susanna McElligott, writing for the Syracuse University DemocracyWise blog in November 2008, said that New York State leaves the decision about how to decide a tie vote up to local communities, noting that typically a tie would be decided by the Town Council. But the words “tie vote” don’t occur anywhere in the Orangetown Code, so we may never know would have happened if there had been a tie.

What’s the likelihood that we will see another election this close anytime soon? No one really knows, but consider this: 2013 was also the year that Hanukkah and Thanksgiving coincided, an confluence that won’t happen again for another 70,000 years.

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