In the November 8 edition of the Times Union Wendy Liberatore wrote a follow-up story on the charter vote.
In the story Bob Turner voices alarm that of the 8,724 ballots cast, 368 did not vote one way or the other on the charter. Ms. Liberatore wrote, “He and Gordon Boyd, another member of the Charter Review Commission, were told by voters that not all of the poll workers told them to turn over the ballot, as the workers should have. “We are concerned by the under vote,” he said.
Liberatore goes on to point out that the “The city’s Commissioner of Accounts John Franck, for whom the city clerk works, said he does not know of any irregularities at the polls and that it is often the case that voters don’t turn over the ballot, even when they are told to. But Franck said he didn’t tour each polling site this year like he usually does.” In true Liberatore fashion she implies that somehow Franck was responsible for the problem.
In a considerably better article that appeared in the Gazette, Bill Fruci, Democratic Election Commissioner, explained that the training of the people from both political parties who staff the polling places is done by the county not the city. He further noted that it is not uncommon for voters to abstain from voting on items on the ballot. Also, to have only 4% of the ballots not completely marked is a very modest number.
Liberatore continues, “The charter review commission countered that Franck’s involvement in the fight was also a violation of state law because elected officials are to remain publicly neutral when city voters consider adopting a new charter.” Since the Charter Review Commission dissolved at 9:00 PM the night of the election, I will guess that this came from either Turner, Kane, or Boyd or all three. Why Ms. Liberatore did not properly attribute this complaint is unclear. Consistent with the past comments of the pro-charter spokespersons they (and Ms. Liberatore) ignored that Mayor Yepsen and Commissioner Mathiesen had not been publicly neutral. Both had written letters to the editor, made statements to the press, and appeared prominently in the pro-charter mailers.
Saratoga Today also has an article in this week’s edition on the on-going saga of the charter. In it Bob Turner in a demonstration of wretched excess compared the charter election to Florida in 2000. He warns us we are heading for brand new legal territory. In fact, reliable sources tell me that the “It’s Time Saratoga!” people have hired attorney Jim Long to represent them when the absentee ballots are opened and to potentially challenge them.
In response, there will be a special meeting of the City Council on Monday to consider hiring a lawyer to represent the city in this process. I spoke to John Franck who told me emphatically (John Franck knows how to tell you something emphatically!) that the purpose of the lawyer representing the city is not to challenge any ballots but to insure the proper process is followed and to advocate on behalf of the city that to the extent possible, all ballots be counted. This is to say that should the “It’s Time” people challenge a ballot the attorney representing the city will review and if appropriate defend such ballots.
So, dear reader, you might ask “what is the point of challenging a ballot when you do not know if it is for you or against you?” Well, the names of all the people casting absentee ballots are public. Excessively zealous individuals could contact these people trying to find out how they voted. They could then attempt to invalidate the ballots of those people on the other side of the issue. I know it sounds bizarre but it has been done in the past.
In contrast to all of this, Richard Sellers on behalf of SUCCESS told the paper, “We’re confident in the Saratoga County Board of Elections and we look forward to a clear outcome.”
I do not know the Republican Commissioner of Elections but I have known the Democratic Commissioner, Bill Fruci , for decades. Bill, aside from being an extremely nice person has demonstrated over the years extensive knowledge of election law and a high standard for fairness. Notwithstanding Bob Turner’s hyperbole, this is not the first election in which absentee ballots have been scrutinized and potentially challenged. In the end, if one or more ballots are challenged, a judge will determine their validity.
Ballots can be invalid for a number of reasons but the issues are not as obscure as hanging chads. If the voter checks off more than one choice for the same office or propositions, that particular selection is obviously invalid. The envelopes the absentee ballots are sealed in must be properly signed and dated. The post mark must be prior to the election. All of this is fairly straight forward. In general the courts have been reluctant in these cases to rule ballots invalid emphasizing the need to protect the right to vote.