Middleburgh voter machine called into question
By Jim Poole
Tom Wargo knows he got more than two votes in Middleburgh's mayoral election March 20.
And, convinced that the voting machine was in error, Mr. Wargo is protesting the election.
He filed a request for judicial intervention last week, and Schoharie County Judge George Bartlett is expected to review the issue.
The final tally in the mayor's race showed challenger Matthew Avitabile with 193 votes, incumbent Mayor Bill Ansel-McCabe with 169 and Mr. Wargo with two, according to village Clerk Janet Mayer, who was in charge of the election.
The voting machine is an older lever-type, and Mr. Wargo is sure it didn't record some of his votes.
The best proof he has consists of signed statements from eight residents who said they voted for him, Mr. Wargo said.
"I have to have proof there's something wrong with the machine," he said. "I have those eight, and I suspect there are more. Where did the votes go?"
He's asking Judge Bartlett to order that machine be inspected to see whether it works properly.
"Just check the machine. If it's fine, so be it," said Mr. Wargo, who's working without an attorney and describes himself as "flying blind."
So far behind in the tally, Mr. Wargo knows finding the machine is faulty won't give him the race. That's not why he's protesting.
"Look, if the machine's not lined up properly, it's possible some of Bill's votes went to Matthew," he said.
"I could have just walked away from this. It's not an ego thing. It's about the voters. Nobody wants to see their votes disenfranchised."
When she heard Mr. Wargo was protesting the election, Ms. Mayer asked workers to just "leave it where it was" after March 20.
Mr. Ansel-McCabe isn't a party to Mr. Wargo's request, but he also believes the machine should be inspected.
Mr. Ansel-McCabe planned to contact the state Board of Elections--village races aren't covered by the county Board of Elections--and possibly the state Attorney General's Office.
"I feel bad for Tom," Mr. Ansel-McCabe said. "At the minimum, we should have the machine inspected.
"If it works okay, all our questions are answered."
Mr. Ansel-McCabe is willing to help pay to check the machine, if necessary.
Mr. Avitable was sworn in as mayor Monday night. He believed "the machine worked fine."
But, Mr. Avitabile added, "if it needs to be looked at, it needs to be looked at.
"The village should make sure future elections are conducted properly."