Steve Mackin, a Bellport Village trustee and firefighter, took a one-vote lead over incumbent Richard Terwilliger and won a five-year commissioner term with Bellport Fire District, after claiming that current fire district board members were blocking him from taking the spot by voiding ballots that were clearly meant for him but contained simple misspellings. Mackin was a write-in candidate in the election, which was held on the evening of Dec. 14, at the same time as many other fire district elections across Long Island.
“They were looking for anything to knock me out. They’re intention was to make it difficult for me,” said Mackin.
A judge ruled on Tuesday., Jan. 4, that of the 19 ballots that were thrown out, 14 of them were admissible, according to Mackin. That put Mackin one vote ahead of Terwilliger, the incumbent, for a total of 132 votes to Terwilliger’s 131.
What’s in a name?
What’s in a name? That depends. Is the name spelled correctly? Many of the votes that were deemed inadmissible by fire district election officials had the name “Mackin” misspelled in one way or another. Some voters added an “e” to spell out “Macken.” Some dropped the “c” for “Maken.” Some tried spelling his name with a “ch” for “Machen.” The judge went through each ballot and deemed that any variation on the name “Mackin” was ok to use, said Mackin.
Whatever the misspelling, Mackin said it boils down to district board members looking for ways to disqualify him.
“Using a misspelling as a technicality, that’s revenge,” he said.
Paul Neumann, commissioner and district secretary, disagrees with the assertion that the board purposely meant to disqualify Mackin.
“People showed up to vote. The election officials counted up the ballots and it was determined by the election officials that he lost the vote,” he said.
Neumann doesn’t count the ballots because he’s not one of the election officials (these officials are voted in by the board). But, he said that his responsibility is to make sure that the election results are reported to the Brookhaven Town clerk within 72 hours, and he did that. Neumann said that when Mackin raised the issue to the board, the board hired an attorney who went through the ballots and determined that Mackin was not the winner.
“The lawyer recited case laws from other write-ins in the past and based on those case laws, Mackin didn’t win,” he said.
Some village residents say the intent to vote for Mackin was there.
“As a village resident and someone who pays close attention to elections, I think it’s imperative that the voter’s voice is heard. I feel discretion should be used that favors the voter, not discretion that favors one candidate over another candidate,” said Thomas Schultz.
Mackin also commented on the importance of voter intent.
“The voter’s intent is clear to me and it should be clear to anyone. If someone wrote Daffy Duck on the ballot, it’s simple: they’re not asking for Vanna White,” he said.
Terwilliger had no comment about the election. Mackin said he’s looking forward to support from most board members and will work with the group as a team.
“I have major support from two-thirds of the board. We’re going to work as a team,” said Mackin. “We’re part of the same team. The greater good needs to rise to the top now—and the ‘good old boys’ had to take a step down.”
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