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Invalids, infrequent voters and people who swore that they had registered to vote in a timely fashion through the state Department of Motor Vehicles were among more than 400 people who had filed emergency petitions by Tuesday afternoon to preserve their right to cast ballots in Nassau County, N.Y. Hundreds more petitions were expected by the end of the evening by would-be voters turned away from polling places after work. The petitions were argued by pro bono attorneys from both major parties. It was part of the statewide effort to decide election disputes immediately. Among the lawyers donating their time to the elections Tuesday were Steven R. Schlesinger of Garden City’s Jaspan Schlesinger Hoffman, former District Judge Michael Alonge and civil rights attorney Frederick K. Brewington of Hempstead. More than 50 attorneys were believed to be volunteering for the cause, said attorney Kenneth A. Gray. Gray is an associate at Bee Ready Fishbein Hatter & Donovan, which typically represents the Republican Party. Schlesinger’s firm frequently represents the county Democrats. At nightfall, Bee Ready senior partner Peter Bee and Schlesinger joined forces to obtain a court order impounding all the ballots in Nassau County on the premise that at least one race would be too close to call. Bee said, “Somebody is going to be close. We want to supervise the opening of the paper ballots and the recanvassing of the machines.” Last year a race for Glen Cove City Council ended in a tie. Those same candidates were running against each other again this year. Hearing the individual cases Tuesday were rotating triads of Nassau County Supreme Court justices including Meryl Berkowitz, Ute Wolff Lally, Daniel F. Martin, Leonard B. Austin, Ira Warshawsky, Arthur M. Diamond, David Sullivan, Joseph Covello and F. Dana Winslow. In scenes presumably reflecting those played out elsewhere across New York state, the judges heard emergency petitions from would-be voters who testified that they had attempted to vote but were turned away at their polling places. Overwhelmingly, those petitions were granted without opposition from the county attorney’s office. Explaining the county’s stance, the executive chief deputy county attorney, Meredith Feinman, said that the county’s lawyers were appearing on behalf of the county’s Board of Elections, an officially nonpartisan body. The board’s function, she said, is to “facilitate voter registration.” So the county attorneys were charged with putting before the courts papers obtained from the board documenting the potential voters’ registration. In many cases, the Board of Elections had no proof of attempted registration, often because paper work had failed to arrive from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). In those instances, the county lawyer appearing before the court was instructed to defer to the judgment of the court based on the evidence produced by the would-be voter. “It’s not our function to be determining whether someone ought or ought not to be able to vote,” Feinman said. Of the DMV’s failures, Justice Lally said after one hearing that the same situation existed during the 2000 presidential election. The DMV does not “seem to send these applications in,” she said, shaking her head. Late in the day, Carle Place lawyer Marshall Schictman placed before Justice Austin 20 petitions from bedridden patients at nearby Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola. Some were receiving long-term care, and others were admitted only Tuesday. All were seeking permission to vote by absentee ballot. Earlier, Schictman had been dispatched by the court to the hospital to gather signatures on their petitions and then to verify their voter registrations with the Board of Elections. As of Tuesday night, he was responsible for getting the granted absentee ballots back to the patients for completion and then back to the board before the polls closed at 9 p.m. “You do what the day demands,” said Schictman, who was representing the patients pro bono. “There are no red and blue colors on me. I just want to help people.” Tuesday’s impromptu court appearances yielded some surprising admissions. In one case, before Justice Warshawsky, a 45-year-old Valley Stream man sought permission to vote in Nassau County even though, as he explained to the judge, his driver’s license and auto registration showed a Suffolk County address. It was a ploy to get cheaper car insurance, petitioner Peter Howell told the court. After hearing that Howell’s wife, Petula Scott Howell, still voted in Brooklyn, where her mother lives, Justice Warshawsky tartly advised the couple to confer with counsel before testifying further. He did not deny their petition. Instead, noting their “twisted history of addresses and locations,” he granted them the right to vote in the federal elections for president, vice president and senator, but not for local offices. Between hearings, the judge recounted in an interview that another petitioner, from Oyster Bay had come on behalf of her husband, who was said to be at home working. Asked what he was doing there, she reportedly replied that he was digging a ditch. That application was denied.

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