By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Election Night in Cooperstown Tuesday, Sept. 15, was a nail-biter, ending with a 272-272 tie and setting up a runoff election for next Tuesday the 29th.
The runoff is between Democratic incumbent MacGuire Benton and Republican newcomer Mary-Margaret Robbins. Polls will again be open noon-9 p.m. at the fire hall.
This week, the candidates were asked to provide a final statement to village voters.
“I think things are going very well,” said Benton.
“A Village Board of proven leaders has worked very hard. I hope the people of Cooperstown will keep the progress going. I want to keep the progress going. I want to keep things going the way they are.”
Said Robbins, “As a longtime resident of Cooperstown, I choose to live here, work here and raise my family here. Now, I’m running for the Village Board to ensure Cooperstown stays a great place to live, work and raise a family for generations to come.”
Because of the short time to the runoff, Village Administrator Teri Barown extended office hours – 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. Thursday the 24th, and 8 a.m. – noon Saturday the
26th – for people who want to vote absentee to pick up applications or drop off ballots.
Absentee ballots may also be submitted Election Day until the polls close at 9 p.m.
What happened here Election Night provides a hint of what’s to come nationally after Nov. 3.
A few minutes after the polls closed at 9 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 15, Election Inspectors Tom Lyon and Ed Gwilt had the official count from voting machines: 234 for Joe Membrino, plus the 227 for Benton and 208 for Robbins.
But there were 108 absentee ballots, a lot more than usual.
First, Village Administrator Teri Barown and Election Inspectors Nancy Morton and Tom Heitz certified each of them, checking absentee voters against the list of registered voters provided by the county Board of Elections.
Ten voters had apparently forgotten they’d voted by absentee in the March 18 election that delayed six months by COVID-19, and they voted again.
“You put ‘already voted’ on those ballots,” said Barown, “and set them aside.”
One voter who had voted in March had since died, and his ballot was disqualified, too.
The ballots were then counted individually, “Membrino, Benton,” said Compton. Then, “Membrino, Robbins,” Heitz would say. There were a number of ballots with single votes for either Benton or Robbins.
Counting absentees and adding them to the machine count took an hour and a half, as the candidates, friends, family members and supporters stood by.
When Barown announced the tie, Robbins and Benton gasped, laughed and shook hands.
Membrino’s wife Martha gave her hubby a big hug, (which they agreeably repeated for the photographer.)
Both candidates in the tie rejected a coin toss– one means of resolving ties – and opted for the runoff election.