Riverhead Middle School Saturday, May 22. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Last week’s budget vote numbers were reported inaccurately, Riverhead Central School District announced Friday afternoon.

There were 300 more “no” votes on the budget proposition than were reported by district officials on Tuesday night after the polls closed, the district said in a statement posted late Friday afternoon to the district’s website.

An election worker at the Riley Avenue polling location misread a “4” as a “1” on the tape printed out by the voting machine when reporting the budget vote results to district officials, Deputy Superintendent Sam Schneider said in a statement this morning.

“After a 15.1 hour day, she reported the total number of no votes from one machine to be 137 instead of 437,” Schneider said.

The error did not affect the outcome of the budget vote. The budget was approved 2,237 to 1,186 — rather than 2,237 to 886, as reported Tuesday night.

The trustee election results were also not affected, Schneider said. The trustee election results are printed out on separate lines from the general school budget vote, and the poll worker only misread the result from the school budget line.

At the end of election night, Schneider explained, mechanics from the Suffolk County Board of Elections close the voting machines. The voting machines then print reporting tapes which show the total number of votes per item.

At each polling location, the head poll worker then calls personnel at Roanoke with results, Schneider said. But when the head poll worker for Riley Avenue called to report the results, she mistook a “4” as a “1” on the item for the school budget results.

“In this instance, I took the call and transcribed the numbers into the spreadsheet we keep with the vote totals,” he said. “As is the procedure, I gave the phone to Christopher Venator, an attorney for the District, who asked the poll worker to repeat the numbers as a check. Unfortunately, the poll worker again mistakenly indicated 137 no votes,” rather than 437 votes, he said.

The district clerk discovered the error on Friday, Schneider said, and updated the district website immediately with the correct total for that polling location.

“The district places a high value on the accurate administration of elections,” he said. “In future elections, we will have the reporting tapes driven to Roanoke from the other three polling locations to prevent these kinds of errors. This may lengthen the time it takes to report the vote total, but we feel that this kind of error cannot be repeated in the future.”

At least one candidate and some community members are calling for an investigation.

“My alleged vote count was 850 and the no votes were allegedly 886,” candidate Yolanda Thompson said in a discussion on Facebook Saturday. According to the results reported Tuesday, Thompson, in her third run for school board, placed fourth in a field of six candidates for two trustee seats.

School board candidates Monique Parsons and Shannon Reitz, who ran as a team, posted a statement on their campaign Facebook page Saturday morning complaining of the district’s “lack of transparency” in the way it conducts its business.

“Unfortunately, this information further validates our concern that there are flawed processes within our district that need to be changed,” they posted on their page.

All disputes regarding the validity of any school district election must be referred to the commissioner of education, who, upon the filing of a petition, may, in their discretion, order a recount or even a new vote, according to New York State Education Law. The commissioner’s decision is final and not subject to review, according to the statute.

Support local journalism.
Now more than ever, the survival of quality local journalism depends on your support. Our community faces unprecedented economic disruption, and the future of many small businesses are under threat, including our own. It takes time and resources to provide this service. We are a small family-owned operation, and we will do everything in our power to keep it going. But today more than ever before, we will depend on your support to continue. Support RiverheadLOCAL today. You rely on us to stay informed and we depend on you to make our work possible.

Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.