Sunday, December 6, 2009

Status Report on Republican Challenges to Columbia County Voting Rights

Latest Status Report on the 
Republican Challenges to the 
Rights of Columbia County Voters

This report is intended to keep the public informed of the events occurring in the Supreme Court in Hudson NY in relation to the case: Fingar v Columbia County BOE and Nolan. Joined to this case are the candidates from Taghkanic, NY who appeared on the Nov 3rd 2009 Ballot.

DECEMBER 2, 2009
Court was reconvened on the afternoon of Dec 2nd with a packed courtroom. Spectators were standing. Appearing on behalf of plaintiff Republicans was James Walsh, Kathleen O’Keefe for Respondent Nolan and the Democratic Committee, Daniel Burstein with Jeffrey Novack on behalf of Virginia Martin, and County Attorney Fitzsimmons on behalf of the BOE. The agenda of the court was to hear the arguments. At this hearing Judge Nichols dismissed the case against Ms Martin primarily on argument made by Mr Burstein that a public official is immune from individual prosecution when acting in official duties.

The lawyers were requested the prior day to return with a list of challenged ballots. Kathleen O’Keefe returned a specific list of 18 ballots with detailed objections to 15. The other 3 were no longer contested and stipulated to be counted. Mr. Walsh submitted a generic argument and related it to the list already prepared by the BOE. There are 66 ballots to which Mr. Walsh had objected.

The court proceeded to hear the oral arguments on the case. Mr. Walsh contends that utilizing Election Law article 16-106 was valid and that he could challenge the absentee ballots. The basis for Mr. Walsh’s objections to the ballots was overwhelmingly “Qualification” and he stated in court today that by “qualification” he meant dual residency issues. Ms. O’Keefe responded that this was the first time that Mr. Walsh had stated on the record that the objection was Residence. He further stated that he was not disputing that the voters had a residence in Columbia County but that his contention was that their primary residence was outside the county and they should vote there.

Ms O’Keefe and Mr Burstein argued that the election law article 16-108 is the statue that applies and that necessary parties to the court case, the voters, had not been notified by the court. Mr. Burstein noted that under election law a voter must be notified if their registration was being challenged. Ms. O’Keefe continued by saying it was necessary to bring in the voter. The court action was incorrectly framed as a ballot challenge but is in fact a registration challenge.

Mr Fitzsimmons, the County Attorney, made no arguments or presented anything.

The court adjourned after the arguments with a request by the judge to have the arguments submitted in writing by Friday noon. The Judge said he would issue his ruling on the motion to dismiss the case involving objections to the ballots by Friday afternoon.

DECEMBER 3, 2009
The BOE in standard procedure opened the absentee ballots from the towns of Claverack, Stuyvesant, Ancram and Austerlitz. And the ballots from Taghkanic that Ms. O’Keefe had stipulated that she removed her prior objections. No incident occurred and the business was concluded expeditiously in two hours. For reports on the final outcomes see ccScoop and Register-Star

DECEMBER 4, 2009
The attorneys sent to the judge their oral arguments as written briefs. It is noted that both Mr Burstein and Ms O’Keefe had theirs to the Judge by the requested deadline of 12 noon but Mr. Walsh submitted his arguments after 1PM. By 3 that afternoon, the Judge issued his ruling. It denied the motion by Ms O’Keefe and Mr. Burstein to dismiss the case. Court would reconvene on Monday, December 7, 2009 at 10:30 AM but the location would be changed to the Elks Lodge Hall on Harry Howard Ave, Hudson, NY to permit more room for the spectators. This all happened via email.

It is important to note that the Republican attorneys filed a proposed subpoena to voters with the court. This has to be considered and signed by the Judge, possibly on December 7th. The subpoena requests a long list of items to be supplied by the voter. This document will be debated on Monday. A copy is attached as an exhibit to this status report.

News reports of the week:

Register Star - 6 December 2009 Taghkanic Absentee Voters Face Subpoenas 
ccScoop - 5 December 2009 The Ballot Battle Continues
Register Star - 5 December 2009 Judge Denies Dems’ Motion for Dismissal
Register Star - 4 December 2009 Counting Complete in All But Taghkanic
Register Star - 3 December 2009 Ballot Court Battle Still Not Over
ccScoop - 2 December 2009  The Issue is Residency
ccScoop - 2 December 2009 And the Winners Are...
Register Star - 1 December 2009 Judge Wants List of Ballot Objections
List of items required by subpoena of challenged voters:
View the list here.
Related news reports:
New York Times - Republicans Challenge Voter Rolls In Westchester
MiscellanyNews - Bard College sues Board of Elections for illegal injunction 
The Freemans Journal - GOP Legal Beagle May Be Called In
The Albany Project - Dutchess County Voter Suppression: One Student's Perspective 
The Albany Project - Insane Ruling In Dutchess County: Brands, Ciampoli Strike Again

Please contribute to the Columbia County Absentee Ballot Legal Defense Fund on