Ramapo activists seek dismissal of town’s appeal

Parietti and Romanowski seek to preserve ward vote invalidation

BY MICHAEL RICONDA

RAMAPO – Activists in the Town of Ramapo have launched another legal push toward their goal of authorizing a second vote on the question of whether or not wards should be established in Ramapo’s local elections.

Ramapo Residents Robert Romanowski and Michael Parietti filed a motion to dismiss the town’s appeal of a ruling by Supreme Court Judge Margaret Garvey in October. The activists allege the appeal cannot move forward because no copy of the September 30 proceedings’ transcripts were provided prior to the deadline.

“The appeal has not been properly perfected ,and the time to do so under this Court’s order of November 3, 2014 has expired,” Parietti and Romanowski’s motion reads.

According to Town of Ramapo Deputy Attorney Janice Gittleman, however, the transcript was not a proper part of the record on appeal and the court did not rely upon statements made in the transcript to make its decision on the invalidation of the referendum. Instead, the transcript merely spoke to the temporary relief sought by the impounding of ballots.

According to Romanowski, a decision on the appeal is expected before the end of the month, meaning a re-do of the ward vote is possible in 2015.

Garvey’s original decision invalidated the highly-controversial referendum on a proposed ward system in the Town of Ramapo on the grounds that information on absentee ballots and about voter eligibility was provided in such a flawed and haphazard fashion that the only alternative was a complete re-do of the election.

“Appellants submit that the lower court did not rely upon statements made at the oral argument in its Decision and Order, and that in any event, the material is contained in the record on appeal,” the town’s response to the dismissal motion read.

The ward referendum, which took place on September 30, 2014 after years of efforts by Ramapo activists, was fraught with confusion when the town gave voters misinformation on absentee ballots and voter eligibility. Specifically, voters were told that absentee ballots received up to five days after the vote would be counted as long as they were postmarked by September 29.

However, town law stipulates absentee ballots must be received by 5 p.m. on the evening of the election. The town also indicated eligible voters could register with the County Board of Elections, an announcement which could be mistakenly interpreted to mean registration is required for town referendums.

As a consequence, Garvey ordered the referendum ballots impounded. She subsequently concluded the town’s failure to provide clear and accurate information was so egregious that it impacted the validity of voting procedures and could not be fixed with a mere court order. A new referendum was ordered to be held between 60 and 75 days of the ruling.