Thursday, December 17, 2009

Appellate Division Judges Hear Ballot Case

The New York State Appellate Division 3rd Department heard arguments in the absentee ballot case. The five judge panel listened to arguments in an Albany courtroom packed with candidates and residents from Taghkanic and Columbia County.

Lead plaintiff Greg Fingar was not present in court as has been the case for most of the hearings to date.

Attorney Kathleen O’Keefe represented the Columbia County Democratic Committee Chairman Chris Nolan and the Democratic candidates. Attorney Dan Burstein represented Board of Elections Commissioner Virginia Martin. Mr. Nolan and Ms. Martin were present at the hearing as they have been throughout the ordeal.

John Ciampoli was the attorney for the lead plaintiff in the case, Columbia County Republican Committee Chair, Greg Fingar and the Republican candidates. The attorneys were each given ten minutes to address the panel.

Ms. O’Keefe spoke first, telling the judges that she hadn’t been able to find a case where asking for a “massive amount of information” from voters whose ballots were challenged was allowed.

Mr. Burstein spoke second and said “There’s no evidence that there’s any fraud of residency ... there’s no reason to continue an inquiry after the election,”

Ciampoli spoke last and said he was challenging the oath (that each absentee voter must sign) because the absentee ballot application states “they know of no reason why they are not qualified to vote in this election ... the ‘sham’ here is not just in the residency, but in the act of voting.” During ballot challenges, Ciampoli and Attorney James Walsh challenged ballots on “veracity of oath” dozens of times.

Judge Peters asked Ciampoli, whether the issue was about the qualification of voters and residence. “It’s about that, and more, your honor,” he replied. She later asked “Aren’t you challenging them, in essence, with fraud?”. Ciampoli replied that election law said a voter was not a necessary party in a ballot challenge, only in a challenge to a registration. “We seek only to invalidate the ballot". Judge Peters then asked “How do you do one without the other?”

Columbia Democrats' attorney Kathleen O'Keefe believes that a decision will come quickly "hopefully by Friday.”

Decisions made by the state Court of Appeals are posted on its Web site here

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Register-Star - Appellate Judges Hear Ballot Case