Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Justices suggest they’ll count Ulster inspector votes

A panel of five appellate justices suggested they would count 53 ballots in a tight state Senate race cast early by poll workers in Ulster County.

But the justices were more skeptical as they questioned lawyers for Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk about some of the other 280 ballots she’s hoping to have counted. Tkaczyk initiated the appeal last month after a Montgomery County judge certified George Amedore, a Republican homebuilder from Rotterdam, as the winner in the five-county 46th District.

The final margin was 37 votes, but the same judge invalidated roughly 450 ballots that he examined during a three-week trial. Tkaczyk’s legal team has said she will pull ahead if those votes are counted, and Jim Long argued during a Monday morning hearing that “hypertechnical” mistakes on ballots should not disenfranchise otherwise qualified voters.

“We are the beacon for the world as to how democracy works,” he said. “Yet we are here, as lawyers, disenfranchising our neighbors and friends because they, what, didn’t check a box or put in an old address?”
Amedore’s attorney David Lewis said “qualified” voters should vote.

“The fact that the voter is qualified is also, if you’ll excuse the expression, qualified by what the voter does. So if the voter … fails to vote the way they’re supposed to, they’re not entitled to have that ballots cast,” he said. “It doesn’t encourage participation when we validate votes that aren’t proper under the law we pass … it dilutes participation.”

The justices could rule as early as Tuesday, Justice Thomas Mercure said. The court’s ruling could impact whether Amedore begins voting on measures in the state Senate, which holds its first session of the year on Wednesday.

The 333 votes in question were divided into several categories, including 53 votes by Ulster County poll inspectors that were sent and voted before the election. State law says board officials cannot distribute special ballots to poll workers until two weeks before an election — a courtesy, because they will be tied up on Election Day — and Republicans claimed Ulster County officials invalidated the votes by sending and accepting them earlier in October.

Several of the affected poll workers — 39 were challenged by Amedore’s campaign, and 14 by Tkaczyk’s — attended the hearing. Carole Furman, of Saugerties, said her ballot arrived in early October, and she mailed it in on Oct. 18.  POST

No comments: