Try listening to the story instead of reading it!

Little Falls City Court Judge, Mark R. Rose steps up to the podium to announce his run for Herkimer County Family Court Judge last January.

by Dave Warner

What are the odds that it will be a tie when 4,582 people cast their votes for two candidates? Well, someone smarter than I am said that it was a 1 in 4,582 chance. And that’s exactly where we stood this afternoon when we interviewed Mark Rose about his tie with Thad Luke for Herkimer County Family Court Judge.

The Herkimer County Board of Elections had certified the results of the primary late Wednesday after counting the thousands of absentee ballots and finding out that each candidate had the same number of votes: 2,291 to be exact.

But by 3 pm today, all of this seemed to change when Rose emailed us and told us that we might want to hold the story we were writing about the tie. Anonymous sources reported that 26 or more uncounted votes had been mysteriously found from the Town of Norway and an additional number of votes, 5, had been found uncounted in Salisbury.

According to Herkimer County Board of Elections Republican Commissioner Kim Traner, the tie would have created a vacancy on the Republican line and the party would have the responsibility of choosing the candidate, which would be similar to a party caucus.

“I got a call (this afternoon) to go to the board of elections because they said that they had some more ballots that were not counted,” said Rose. “When it was all said and done, he (Luke) won by five.”

Rose said that it was his understanding that the returned ballots in question had been opened with an envelope cutter, but that the ballots had not been taken out of the envelope. “Maybe somebody took a break or something? I don’t know,” he said.

The campaign for Rose started in late February when he had to go out and get signatures to get on the petition. “We had to get approximately 900 signatures from Republicans, which seems easy, but it’s very hard at that time of the year because it gets dark out early and it’s very cold at times,” he stated.

He said that about halfway through the effort, the COVID pandemic hit Herkimer County, and he decided that they should no longer go out for petitions. “That was on a Wednesday. On the following Saturday, Governor Cuomo made an executive order stating that you could no longer canvas,” Rose stated.

The Governor had also reduced the number of petitions that were needed.

“The signatures were due around the beginning of April, so we thought this is great, we have plenty of signatures and we have a couple of weeks to turn them in. Maybe we can relax a little bit,” Rose said. “Well, he made the executive order on Saturday, but on Monday he said ‘oh, by the way, those reduced numbers need to be in by Wednesday’.”

So, the Rose campaign scrambled to meet the new deadline.

Their strategy had been to do a door-to-door campaign, especially in the rural areas, but the pandemic caused all of that to be thrown out the window.

“At some point, the Governor made an executive order saying that everyone was going to receive an absentee ballot. And we said, gee, this is going to be big. They sent out 19,000 or so ballots to Republicans and they received in the area of 5,000 back,” he said.

The team had to check with the board of elections every day to see who had requested ballots so that they could mail materials to them seeking their vote. “On the first day it was like 674 and I’m like, oh my God. These people are going to fill them out quickly and get them back. How are we going to contact them in time?”

Rose said that the number doesn’t seem like a lot, but you have to put return addresses on them, address them, get postage on them, and then find enough envelopes. “We had different letters going out to people who lived in different areas.”

“We ran into complications because of COVID. One of the things was the inability to buy envelopes. We couldn’t get them and we were running to Syracuse to get 60 of them, Utica to get 50, we just couldn’t get them,” he stated.

They also had trouble getting enough flyers printed, and problems with getting the signs they wanted. “It was a debacle,” said Rose. They had problems with the printing, getting the correct number of posts to hold them, and then had to start putting them out earlier than expected.

“We’d get 15 in, and then another 15, and then we got like 250 posts in, but only 100 signs. In the end, I had boxes of posts with no signs. The same thing happened with our big signs,” Rose stated.

He said they couldn’t even get return stickers. On top of all of those problems, they now had to rush everything, which bumped up the cost of postage. “We were constantly changing and having to make new determinations.”

Typically there would be about 300 absentee ballots, and the campaign had made plans to deal with that number.

“Because they had so many this year, they waited an additional week to count them because I think they wanted to make sure things would run smoothly,” said Rose.

He said that he feels the Board of Elections did an extremely good job. “They really had their hands full because they were getting constantly bombarded with executive orders. I know that the people up there had to put in a lot of extra time and I’m sure it was very stressful for them.”

If the results end up getting certified, then Luke will be on the Republican line in November and Rose will be on the Conservative one.

We reached out to Thad Luke for comment on the situation but were unable to connect with him.

In addition, we have reached out to the Herkimer County Board of Elections for comment and, they have not responded as well.