The Massapequa School District Board of Education (BOE) recently sent a request to the New York State Education Department to allow a recount of ballots cast in May’s school vote. The reasoning for the request comes after the district believed one of the voting machines used had malfunctioned.
“In a close contest among the three top candidates for two open seats on the school board, the board of education has voted to ask the Commissioner of Education [MaryEllen Elia] to allow a hand recount of ballots cast on May 21 at one voting machine at McKenna Elementary,” said the board in a statement posted on the school district’s website. “This determination was made after thorough deliberation and consideration by the board and administration, beginning election night.”
According to the board, one of the machines at McKenna Elementary School registered two tie votes for four candidates, with two candidates each receiving 362 votes and the other two each receiving 290 votes. The school believes that this machine may not have registered these votes properly. As of now, all ballots have been kept enclosed since election night in order for the commissioner to make a ruling. The school district also made it clear that this recount will only affect the trustee vote, not the budget or bond votes.
“The board’s action is intended to assure the integrity of the vote,” the statement read. “While the board awaits the commissioner’s decision and possible recount, all board business will be conducted in accordance with the election results on May 21.”
In the election, four candidates ran for positions on the board. Allison Steakin received the most votes with 1,625, followed by Cher Lepre with 1,612 votes, only 13 votes less. These two candidates won election on to the board, beating Micheal McCann (1,569 votes) and Erik Gustafson (1,278). Steakin received a three-year term while Lepre received a one-year team since she was filling a vacant seat left by Brian Butler. Despite the looming recount, Lepre is currently serving on the board due to the vacancy.
In a statement to the Massapequa Observer, Steakin stated that she does not support the bid for a recount.
“It is extremely unfortunate that the Massapequa Board of Education is using taxpayer money now, more than three weeks after the May 21 election, to appeal to the Commissioner of Education for a recount of one machine despite the fact that the district agreed to the results that evening, chose to certify the election results immediately and proceeded to swear in the second place candidate moments after certifying the election,” said Steakin. “She is filling the remainder of an open seat and has been a sitting board member ever since that night.”
Steakin’s biggest issue is not with the recount itself, but that it took the board nearly a month to take action.
“I would have fully supported a recount that evening given the close race,” said Steakin. “However, legal counsel for the district stated there was no indication of a malfunction and advised the district to accept the election results, so why are they now contesting them? Instead of helping move this community forward, these inappropriate, wasteful, divisive actions by the Massapequa Board of Education only serve to create further chaos. I am confident that the BOE’s appeal is without merit and will be denied. I look forward to taking my seat on July 1 and leading with integrity to make decisions that matter to our children and our community.”
Supporters of Steakin are also not happy with the appeal. Amy Kaufmann, a resident whose actively involved in board meetings and whose child will be entering kindergarten in the 2020-21 school year, said that she believed that the recount could be used to “steal the election” and that three residents first brought up the idea of a recount on June 6.
“It is almost a month after the election,” said Kaufmann. “In my opinion, this action should have been taken immediately. This school board voted to accept the election results that were certified by the district clerk Anne Marie Bellizzi, and a month later file an appeal. It is also important to acknowledge none of the candidates are bringing their own petition to ask for a recount.”
There is no set timeline as to when a recount will be finalized, but a decision should come down before the next school year begins on Sept. 5.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We have updated this article to clarify that the board believed that the machine had malfunctioned, not that it was confirmed. We also updated to clarify that Kaufmann did not first hear about the recount on election night.