After an unusually prolonged election count cycle, the Tompkins County Board of Elections announced the results of the June 23 election after making its way through the thousands of absentee ballots that were submitted in reaction to absentee ballot expansion implemented due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
New York State Assembly 125th District
|Candidate||Total Votes||Vote percentage|
The largest race of the three decided in Tompkins County was for the 125th District seat in the New York State Assembly, which will be vacated by Barbara Lifton at the end of this year as she retires. Adding up all of the publicly available numbers shows that Tompkins County Legislator Anna Kelles won with 35.99 percent of the vote, registering 5,500 votes. Ithaca Common Council member Seph Murtagh received 3,337 votes, equaling 21.84 percent, followed by former Lifton general counsel Jordan Lesser at 14.67 percent. Finishing behind them were Ithaca attorney Sujata Gibson with 11.49 percent, Dryden Town Supervisor Jason Leifer with 6.19 percent, Cortland County Legislator Beau Harbin with 5.00 percent and Families and Children’s Services CEO Lisa Hoeschele with 4.80 percent.
“Now that every vote has been counted, from absentee to early voting to Election Day, I am humbled and honored to accept the nomination of the Democratic Party for the New York Assembly District 125,” Kelles said. “I wish to recognize the other candidates who ran strong campaigns, and I thank them for their service to our community.”
The statement further pledged that she would be working to help Democratic candidates in neighboring districts and in nearby races to get elected during the lead-up to the general election.
Tompkins County District Attorney
|Candidate||Total Vote||Vote Percentage|
|Matt Van Houten||5863||51.51%|
As for the Tompkins County District Attorney’s race, incumbent Matt Van Houten claimed victory over challenger Ithaca attorney Ed Kopko, edging him out by just 345 votes. Van Houten's victory comes as something of a surprise, considering he was down by a significant amount heading out of election day. In fact, the absentee ballot outcome was basically the direct opposite of the election day votes: Kopko won about 58 percent of the 4,749 votes on June 23, but Van Houten won about 56 percent of the 9,108 that were cast via mail or drop-off.
“This result represents a victory for truth,” Van Houten said, emphasizing that he would be working against systemic racism in the criminal justice system, a frequent topic during the primary. “Words cannot adequately express how much the support and encouragement from the community has meant to me during this campaign. I have listened carefully and paid close attention during the campaign and I will continue to do so. I embrace the opportunity to participate in the meaningful and significant change that is happening in our public safety system here in Tompkins County.”
Both candidates had pledged to support the victor in the general election, and Kopko stuck to that in a statement after the results were released. In 2016, Kopko had filed a lawsuit after Van Houten was selected by the Tompkins County Democratic Committee during the primary process.
"I pledged to accept the voice of the people," Kopko said. "I won in the sense of promoting the public discourse about crucial issues in the criminal justice system. I am immeasurably grateful for the enthusiastic support of thousands of voters who embraced the cause."
Questions remain about the strangely high number of "undervotes," which are classified as votes that are not counted, usually because a choice is not made. There were 2,447 such ballots in the DA race, compared to just 364 in the similarly competitive NYS125 race above. Tompkins County Board of Elections Democratic Commissioner Steve DeWitt noted that the number of undervotes was higher than normal, but that he did not believe it was symptomatic of a poor ballot design, as some had said in the wake of the election.
"The ballot design is consistent with ballots used in previous primary elections," DeWitt said. "17.6 percent undervote is unusually high. It is not uncommon for the undervote to be greater than 10 percent (witness some of the Democratic Primary Elections in 2018) in Primary Elections for state and local offices."
City Court Judge
|Candidate||Total Vote||Vote Percentage|
As for the City Court Judge race, Seth Peacock was elected in the easiest race. Peacock, who had been named to the city judge seat on an interim basis late last year, won easily, beating Tompkins County Assistant District Attorney Daniel Johnson by a final tally of 2,965 to 626, good for a 83 percent to 17 percent difference, only considering ballots counted for the race. Peacock was boosted late in the race by an endorsement from Mayor Svante Myrick, who was also in charge of selecting Peacock for the interim gig.