UPDATE!! The original post is below. Return date for Town of Ramapo’s paperwork is now Monday at noon and the appearance date is not 9/22 at 10:00 am.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Lawsuit against the Town of Ramapo & Town Clerk to invalidate the certification of the Special Election for the Ward Referendum filed in Rockland County Supreme Court;
Judge Garvey sets return date for 9/18 and appearance date 9/22;
Town served on 9/14/2015.
RAMAPO, NY, September 15, 2015:
On Friday, September 11, 2015, a proceeding was initiated in the Rockland County Supreme Court seeking to invalidate the results of the Town of Ramapo’s September 30, 2014 special election on two referendum propositions and to obtain an order that the propositions be placed on the ballot of the Town’s biennial election to be held on November 3, 2015. An Order to Show Cause was signed by the Court yesterday morning, and the Town was served yesterday afternoon, requiring the Town to respond by Friday, September 18, 2015 and appear before the Court on Tuesday, September 22, 2015.
The proceeding was commenced shortly after the Town released a “Certification of Election” on September 8, 2015, signed by Town Clerk Christian Sampson on September 4, 2015, certifying the results of a Town special election in connection with a ward system and an increase in the number of council members. Due to irregularities that could not be rectified and to preserve the integrity of the election, Judge Garvey previously invalidated the Town special election on October 7, 2014, without canvassing of the votes. An appellate court ruled the invalidation was premature and that the votes should be counted to determine if the petitioners were aggrieved. The certified results of the Town special election confirm that the Petitioners were aggrieved and that improprieties in the election impacted its outcome.
The majority of registered voters (both machine voters and absentee ballot voters) voted in favor of the propositions; however, the inclusion of unregistered voters using affidavit ballots caused an additional 2,299 votes to be cast, voting 81.5% against the propositions. The Town went through some lengths to avoid reporting the results by location, yet the data shows that just 4 out of 27 locations were responsible for 50% of the ballots.
The issue of unregistered voters formed a basis for Judge Garvey’s prior invalidation of the Town special election. Judge Garvey recognized that the Town’s conduct in issuing a resolution that stated “potentially eligible voters may register to vote at the County Board of Elections on or before September 23, 2014” was “so misleading to the general public” that it “undoubtedly resulted in the disenfranchisement of voters and chaos and confusion at the polling locations on the date of the special town election.” The appellate court did not disagree with Judge Garvey; rather, it determined that without counting the votes, it could not be demonstrated that the petitioners were aggrieved.
Voters were not the only ones in the dark or confused. Due to improper training and notice, election inspectors also were unaware that unregistered voters could vote and turned away voters. Upon learning during the course of the day that unregistered voters could vote, different locations applied different rules for processing and accepting affidavit ballot votes. Some poll locations required no identification at all, or accepted students who had Brooklyn licenses, while other locations required proof of person and residency in order to vote by affidavit ballot. In at least one location, Hispanic Ramapo residents were turned away even with proof of residency if they did not have proof of citizenship.
The Town of Ramapo delayed its canvassing and certification of election results seemingly in an effort to avoid the proposition being put on the Town biennial election this November 3, if it is once again challenged and invalidated. Petitioners rushed to file in a timely effort to make that date and place the election under the oversight of the Rockland County Board of Elections, which runs Town biennial elections. Such oversight should ensure a fair and valid election on the ward referendum will finally take place.
The Town of Ramapo was forced to schedule the special election because of the petitions brought before it by Michael Parietti and Robert Romanowski; the Town of Ramapo fought the petitions for two years before Judge Garvey forced the Town to finally schedule the election. The election was scheduled in late August of 2014 and held on September 30, 2014 with mass confusion caused by information uncovered by the Journal News less than 24 hours before the election that unregistered voters would be allowed to vote.
The current legal action was organized by Vote6Wards, a pro ward referendum organization started by Deborah Seidman-Munitz to get out the vote and subsequently to provide legal support for Michael Parietti and Robert Romanowski in challenging the Town’s appeal of the initial invalidation of the election. After spending the summer tracking the questionable validation processes used by the town to determine which affidavit ballots to include in the canvass and not seeing any evidence of ballot accounting and reconciliation, coupled by her own experience in being misled last fall, Ms. Munitz joined Parietti and Romanowski in this phase of legal proceedings.
Mr. Parietti, Independent, is running against Town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence in this November’s Town biennial election with Mr. Bill Weber, Republican and Mr. Timothy Scott, Democrat, in a united effort and hopes that his community efforts to bring the ward referendum to the Town to provide more balanced representation and the stunning turnout, and win by registered voters, at the polls last fall will give his supporters the confidence that this fall’s election will be won.
Finally, it must be noted that Robert Romanowski, who is running for Ramapo Highway Superintendent this November, has time and again demonstrated his commitment to Town residents in his constant attendance at Town Hall meetings, but his attendance at every open session of the ballot validation that took place over a month this summer surpassed even his past efforts and has set a new high water mark for community commitment.
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PAPERS FILED AND SERVED