Monday, November 30, 2009

First Day of Absentee Ballot Case Heard in Columbia County Court

Outside the Columbia County Courthouse today.
Photo by Carole Osterink for ccScoop

In the first hearing on the Republican challenges of absentee ballots in Columbia County, much of the proceeding was taken up with housekeeping to straighten out the multiple filings and cross-filings that had piled up on the desk of Judge Jonathan Nichols.

But there was some real movement as well. 
The biggest development is that Greg Fingar, Columbia County Republican Chair and plaintiff for the Republicans has now dropped the challenge to all absentee ballots in the entire county, except in the Town of Taghkanic.
Special note: Judge Nichols had to move the proceeding to the larger court room on the second floor, due to the overflow crowd of Democratic supporters. Although the courtroom was full, the plaintiff in the case, Republican Chair, Greg Fingar, the man responsible for challenging the rights of hundreds of Columbia County voters; was a no show.

The Republican counsel James Walsh and Democratic attorney Kathleen O'Keefe will submit to Judge Nichols, a detailed list of the absentee ballots that are being challenged in Taghkanic by each side along with the specific objections to each ballot. It was agreed that this information will be submitted via email by 2 p.m. on Tuesday, December 1.

On Wednesday, December 2, at 1 p.m. the judge is scheduled to start hearing arguments on the challenges to absentee ballots in the Town of Taghkanic and on our claim that the votes of 2nd homeowners should be counted. The Democratic position is on very solid legal ground. The Republicans have made it clear that they are going to challenge those 2nd homeowners who have claimed STAR exemptions or have rent stabilized apartments at another residence, other than the one they vote from in Columbia County. Even though the criteria for Rent Stabilization and STAR are different than the criteria for voting from a second residence.

This is an orchestrated campaign of voter intimidation by the Republicans.  We are committed to doing everything in our power to be certain that it not succeed, and that it not be allowed to happen ever again.

The Columbia County Democratic Committee stands with 2nd home owners and others whose votes are being challenged and against those that seek to deny the right to vote and to have each vote counted. At today's hearing Columbia County Democratic Party chairman Chris Nolan was added to the lawsuit by intervention. Intervention is a legal procedure that allows parties that aren’t named as petitioners or respondents in court proceedings to join ongoing litigation.

On Thursday, December 3 at 9am—the challenged absentee ballots from Ancram, Austerlitz, Claverack, and Stuyvesant will be counted. Depending on the outcome of Wednesday’s hearing, the challenged absentee ballots from Taghkanic might also be counted at this time.

The cost to defend the rights of 
Columbia County voters is enormous.  
Please make a contribution of 
any amount you can afford, right now

or send a check made out to CCDC to:
Columbia County Democratic Committee
P.O. Box 507
Ghent, New York 12075
Learn More:
See the latest on the court proceedings 
Judge Wants List of Ballot Objections in Register-Star
Challenged Ballots Go to Court in ccScoop

Excellent background story by Sam Pratt on DailyKos.
See the current Board of Elections voting machine tallys for: