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Regional Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 16, 2010

Democratic primary
Judge Doyle leads for Surrogate Court

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — Town court judge Margaret Adkins, a Republican, will likely face Democratic incumbent Cathryn Doyle in November’s election for Surrogate Court judge, according to unofficial results from the Albany County Board of Elections.

Tuesday’s three-way primary for the Democratic line gave Doyle about a third of the votes cast on the state’s new electronic machines.

An unprecedented number of write-in votes were cast on Tuesday, noted Kathleen Donovan, the deputy Democratic commissioner at the county’s board of elections.  In the Democratic primary for surrogate court judge, there were 1,482 write-in votes, roughly 8 percent of the total from the machines.  There are usually fewer than 25 write-in votes in similar elections, Donovan estimated.

Unusually high numbers of write-in votes were counted in elections across the board, she said.  This was the first time electronic voting machines, fed paper ballots, were used county-wide instead of lever machines.  Donovan explained that the large number of write-ins could be because of the layout on the paper ballots, which offered a blank box for writing in a name under the name of each candidate listed on the ballot.  Voters may have mistaken the check-box next to that for a vote for the candidate listed above it, she explained.

So, in the three-way race for the Democratic line for surrogate court judge, there was a blank box below each candidate’s name — the three who appeared were: Cathryn Doyle, who got 33 percent; Murray Carr, who got 31 percent; and Helena Heath-Roland, who got 29 percent.

“Unless one of the candidates brings it to court… it will be considered a non-vote,” Donovan said of the blank write-in votes, adding that the election commissioners hadn’t yet made a final decision.

The absentee ballots, 2,290 of which were sent out, won’t be opened until next Tuesday — they must be postmarked by Sept. 14 and arrive within a week of that date.  As of Wednesday morning, 1,163 had been returned, Donovan said.

In the primary race between Doyle and Adkins for the Conservative Party line, Doyle garnered 56 percent of the votes to Adkins’s 41 percent.  Forty-seven absentee ballots were issued in that race, Donovan said.

For the Working Families Party line, Heath-Roland is three votes ahead of Carr, with 54 percent of the votes from the machines.  Three absentee ballots were issued for that race, according to Donovan.

Adkins, who got the Republican Party endorsement early this year, did not face a primary for that line.  First elected as a town judge in New Scotland in 2003, Adkins said in March that sitting on the town court “prepares you in respect for the law and people coming before you.”

In 2000, Doyle was elected as judge of the surrogate’s court, which carries a 10-year term.  Before that, she served for 20 years as the chief clerk of that court. 

In 2007, the Commission on Judicial Conduct censured her, citing that, “On February 11, 2004, and June 22, 2004, [Doyle] gave testimony under oath… during the Commission’s investigation of a complaint concerning her alleged activities in connection with the Thomas J. Spargo Legal Expense Trust…, a fund established to raise monies for the benefit of her friend, Supreme Court Justice Thomas J. Spargo.  [Doyle’s] investigative testimony concerning her knowledge of, and involvement in, the Spargo trust was inconsistent, misleading and evasive.”

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