Three of 20 absentee ballots in Tompkins County will be for a judge to decide

In the first day of absentee ballot counts for the 54th state Senate Republican primary, attorneys for the Pam Helming campaign objected to three of 20 ballots in Tompkins County. Those three — two of which were cast by permanently disabled voters — will be decided by a judge.

Elizabeth Cree, Tompkins County's Republican elections commissioner, said the Helming team objected to one ballot because the envelope was not sealed. She said the objections to ballots cast by the disabled voters related to the application forms.

Of the 17 absentees counted in Tompkins County, Helming was frontrunner with 7; Floyd Rayburn 5; Sean Hanna, 4; and Brian Manktelow, 1.

Absentees were also counted Monday in Monroe County. The county’s Republican Elections Commissioner Dave Van Varick said teams for both Helming and Rayburn were in attendance and there were no objections. Helming led the count with 9 votes. The other four candidates all received votes. Hanna, Manktelow and Ritter each received 4. Rayburn received 2.

After the polls closed last Tuesday night in the five-way race, just 190 votes separated Canandaigua Supervisor Helming, in the lead, and Hopewell businessman Rayburn, right behind. On Friday, in a court proceeding before Ontario County Court Judge Frederick Reed, an attorney sought on behalf of the Helming campaign a consolidated count date of Sept. 28, in which each of the district’s six counties would count at the same time. Instead, each of the counties are counting this week. Cayuga and Seneca counties are to count Wednesday. Ontario County is on Thursday, followed by Wayne County on Friday.

In a press release after the count in Tompkins County, Rayburn blasted his opponent over ballot objections, saying: “In their first move challenging ballots in the race for New York’s 54th district senate seat, the Helming campaign asked for two absentee ballots cast by permanently disabled voters to be thrown out…. These are the voters absentee ballots were designed for. Folks who simply can’t get to the polls and these Albany lawyers for the Helming campaign wanting to disenfranchise them is obscene. Their votes need to count.”

Rayburn said last week he won the Reform party line Tuesday night and will be on the ballot in November. Ontario County preliminary results from Tuesday night show Helming with one vote and a “write-in” with two votes on the Reform line. Monroe County shows one vote for Helming and one for a “write-in.” Wayne, Seneca, Tompkins and Cayuga showed no votes for anyone on the Reform line.