Conservative Primary Encounters Election Day Errors

The Conservative Primary for Livingston County Sheriff was held on Tuesday, September 10. If you were watching the results come in or read media reports since, you’ll know that James Szczesniak led the Conservative Primary by one vote over Thomas Dougherty (159-158) that evening.  However, a one vote lead was simply too close to call. Absentee ballots could sway the result of this election. The Conservative Party did not declare a winner that evening, nor did anyone else.

Late that evening, members of the media notified Chairman McGuire that there were rumors of problems with the Conservative Primary. It was believed that at two polling sites ballots were given out irrespective of party affiliation. Reportedly, this occurred fifty times in Geneseo and on nine occasions in Caledonia. Most, if not all, of these ballots were believed to be Conservative ballots that were given to Republican voters.  

Chairman McGuire reached out to the Livingston County Board of Elections (BOE) the next day, and the rumors were confirmed. The BOE’s Republican Commissioner, Nancy Leven, confirmed that approximately 59 ballots were cast with no regard for party affiliation. This is approximately 15 percent of the ballots cast in this race. The BOE cannot guarantee that the error occurred only 59 times, that the problems were contained to only two polling sites, or that no Conservative voters were permitted to vote in the Republican Primary.

The ballots in question were segregated, and are being securely held by the BOE.

On Friday, Chairman McGuire met with members of the BOE in an attempt to determine what actually happened during the recent primary. Some conclusions can be drawn following that meeting:

  • It appears that no malicious intentions were involved. This is not believed to be an attempt to subvert the Conservative Primary.
  • Although the BOE conducted training with poll workers, human error appears to have played a part in this failed process.
  • The BOE was responsive to Conservative Party concerns regarding potential primary policy and procedure improvements.
  • Members of the BOE understand that the Conservative Party has an interest in maintaining the integrity of the process, and assuring its members that their vote remains anonymous.
  • In conversations with the State Board of Elections, the Livingston County BOE has been informed that it lacks the authority to refuse counting the questioned ballots. Once a ballot has been cast, it must be counted – even if the BOE is certain it was Republican voters that cast the ballots in a closed Conservative Primary. On Tuesday, September 17, those ballots are to be counted along with any valid absentee ballots received.

Chairman McGuire notified the BOE that he has a responsibility to members of his party to maintain the anonymity and the integrity of his party’s primary process. He informed the BOE that the Livingston County Conservative Primary has obtained legal counsel and will be exploring all options, including the potential of a new primary.

The cost of a new primary is expected to be in the neighborhood of $30,000. This would be a taxpayer expense. Additionally, the party’s legal fees are expected to be significant, but necessary, to maintain the party’s interests. Any persons interested in financially supporting the party’s efforts can make an online contribution or send checks made payable to the “Livingston County Conservative Primary” to: PO Box 213, Lima, NY 14485.

In the coming week, the Conservative Party expects further actions to move quickly and decisively. Inquiries concerning the latest status can be sent via e-mail to or by phone to (585) 734-2199.

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