A court case brought by Democratic candidate Dennis Malone against Republican Clarkstown Highway Superintendent candidate Wayne Ballard has left a dozen or so Clarkstowners claiming that their votes were unfairly disqualified and asking the question: is this really America?
BY DYLAN SKRILOFF
This week Wayne Ballard won Round One of his court case with Dennis Malone, who is seeking to invalidate dozens of absentee ballot votes cast for Ballard in the Working Families Party primary. Malone led the Election Day vote 45-29, but the absentee count favored Ballard by a margin of over 120-3.
Nonetheless, over a dozen Wayne Ballard voters are crying foul because their primary ballots have been disposed of by the Board of Elections.
Malone, a registered Democrat, filed a complaint with the Board of Elections claiming that the over 120 absentee ballots cast for Wayne Ballard should be rendered invalid on various grounds. Ultimately, over 30 of them were indeed rendered invalid, including 24 for signatures on absentee ballot requests that allegedly did not match the Board of Elections record of signatures.
Problem is, when informed of the situation, many of these 24 claim they did, in fact, sign the absentee ballot requests and they are angry as heck that their votes did not count.
In order for a signature to be deemed unusable, it must be rejected by both the Democratic and Republican election commissioner. In this case both Democratic Commissioner Kristen Zebrowski Stavisky and Republican Commissioner Butch Babcock rejected the 24 ballots.
Working Families Party member and Valley Cottage resident Jeff Nigro said, “It’s absolutely ridiculous. I signed the request form. What they are saying is impossible. I have lived in Clarkstown my entire life.”
Working Families Party member Lisa Giordano also said she signed the absentee request form legitimately and she’s not the least bit thrilled her vote is not going to count. Echoing Nigro, she said, “It’s ridiculous. I called and wrote a letter to the Board of Elections assuring them that I was the one who signed the request and voted, and I never heard back.”
Party member Robert Johnson of Valley Cottage sent a letter to the Board of Elections, which read, “This is to inform you that I did in fact sign my ballot and want my vote to count. Please don’t question my integrity again. I find this offensive and embarrassing that I have to take the time out of my day to write this email. No way would I allow anyone to sign my name to anything.”
In order for the contested votes to be counted, voters would have had to submit testimony during the objection period at the Board of Elections, Stavisky said. However, Ballard’s camp did not get this done, she claimed.
Once the case went to court after the commissioners agreed their votes were invalid, it most likely was too late. Babcock attempted to change his opinion on the matter upon receiving calls and emails, but the judge would not allow a change of opinion.
Stavisky did add the caveat that election law is complex and it may be possible to reinstate the votes via appeal, but she doesn’t think so. Since the votes will not make or break the election results, an appeal of the voters’ disenfranchisement will surely not occur due to time and cost involved. In other words, these Americans’ votes in the primary election have been forever lost.
This week Supreme Court Judge Gerald Loehr upheld the validity of most of Ballard’s votes, many of which were gathered by his employee, the controversial highway worker and county legislator, Frank Sparaco (R). Malone had sought to discard the ballots on the grounds that they were gathered unscrupulously, evidenced by the fact that so many voters could not have been unavailable to vote that day.
Such generalized reasoning did not sit well with the court. Malone would most likely have had to prove one by one that voters were not eligible to cast absentee ballots to have any substantive case.
Sparaco has accused Malone of using intimidation tactics and attempting to suppress legitimate votes. He said “it’s a disgrace” that legitimate votes, such as Giordano, Nigro and Johnson’s have been discarded.
One particularly specious claim from Malone’s camp was that it was somehow shady that Sparaco publicly predicted a three-to-one final vote tally in favor of Ballard, before absentee ballots were counted. Judge Loehr, a Democrat, stated the obvious: it is not surprising that a well-organized campaign would know the approximate final vote tally.
Indeed, this is common in all well-organized elections. Only a minority of contests end with a surprise vote tally, even for national elections.
Following the case, Democrat Commissioner Stavisky said she is not happy with the current absentee vote rules, claiming they are too loose. Sparaco said this is an ironic sentiment, as Democrats are usually the ones who benefit from absentee ballot drives.
In Rockland County, GOP operatives have apparently proven capable of outfoxing Democrats at their own game, and the Democrats don’t like it one bit. Malone officially appealed Loehr’s decision on Wednesday.