Here's what wasn't reported in the April 11, 2007 Observer Dispatch. The first mistake that was made was the the Town Clerk should not have been the one to open the absentee ballots. The absentee ballots were to have been accepted in the Town Clerk's office until 5 p.m. the day of the election at which time the Town Clerk was to have delivered them to the election inspectors. After the polls closed at 8 p.m. the election inspectors were supposed to open, valid and count the absentee ballots. All counts were to be tabulated and checked prior to the election inspectors leaving for the evening. However, that did not happen in New Hartford. The Town Clerk held on to the ballots until the next morning and opened them in the presence of a few people. Then she had an epiphany over the weekend and held a private recount.
Town Law Article 6 TOWN ELECTIONS specifically states:
8. No absentee voter`s ballot shall be canvassed, unless it shallSo now they say "mea culpa", we will do it right this time! In the meantime, residents have 20 days from Monday, April 9, 2007 to decide whether to take legal action. The date for the public recount is supposed to be discussed at tonight's town board meeting.
have been received in the office of the town clerk not later than five
P.M. on the day of the election.
9. The town clerk shall, on the day of the election, transmit all absentee voters envelopes, received by him in accordance with subdivision eight of this section, to the inspectors of election.
10. If, at the election, any absentee voters` envelopes shall have been received at the polling place, the inspectors of election immediately after the closing of the polls shall examine them, and shall compare the signature, if any, on each envelope with the signature, if any, on the register, of the person of the same name who registered from the same address. If the signatures are found to correspond, the
inspectors shall certify thereto by signing their initials opposite the name of the voter at the appropriate place in the register. If a person whose name is on an envelope as a voter, shall have already voted in person at such special town election, or if his name, residence and signature, as stated on the envelope, are not on the register, or if there is no signature on the envelope, this envelope shall be laid aside unopened and be returned unopened to the town clerk. If such person is found to be registered and has not so voted in person, and if no objection is made, or if an objection made be not sustained, the envelope shall be opened and the ballot withdrawn without unfolding and deposited in the proper box or boxes. At the time of the deposit of such ballot, the inspectors shall enter the words "absentee vote" at an appropriate place in the register.
You can read the Town Election Law in its entirety by clicking on the link above.
At this point, the Town Board has not only conducted a vote that does not follow Town Law, but now they are cutting into the time we are legally allowed to seek court relief by denying us the right to look over the information we need in order to file an Article 78.
If Town Law was not followed, at the very least the legal notice in the paper should be rescinded to give residents the full 20 days to decide whether or not to go forward.
It has taken the town board 2 weeks to openly admit that mistakes were made. Given the circumstances surrounding this vote and the subsequent "secret" recount(s), it will be very difficult to accept the validity of any further recounts.
For more on this topic, visit Fault Lines.