Wednesday, April 19, 2006

NY: Nassau Voters Get Election Re-Run

Court orders new vote on trustee candidates after write-in problems

By BOB GARDINIER, Staff writer; TimesUnion.com
Wednesday, April 19, 2006

NASSAU -- Residents in this small village will go to the polls Thursday for a court-ordered re-election after a March 21 vote was thrown out over problems with write-in candidates.

The only people on the ballot are two incumbent trustees, Paul Haebler and Dale French, who are running for re-election and were at first thought to be running unopposed. However, on March 21, several voters tried to submit write-in ballots for Barbara Motyl-Dobert and Brendan Cellery. The pair did not gather petitions to secure a slot on the regular ballot.

In an initial count, Haebler and French garnered 49 and 48 votes, respectively, for the two seats, while Motyl-Dobert got 56 write-in votes and Cellery 57, making them the apparent winners.

But Village Clerk Margaret VanDeusen, who supervised the election, threw out some of the write-in votes, enough to give incumbents the win.

The challengers contested her actions, and VanDeusen asked the county Board of Elections to re-canvass the votes.

On March 23, the county board agreed with VanDeusen about the irregularities and threw out 11 of Cellery's write-in votes and 47 of Motyl-Dobert's, making the incumbents winners.


Election officials said voters wrote the candidates' names in the wrong slots, voted for too many candidates or wrote only one letter of a candidate's name in each of several slots instead of writing the whole name in one slot.

Because French is VanDeusen's husband, some in the village of 1,161 residents complained of a conflict of interest and said she should have recused herself from overseeing the vote.

Rensselaer County Elections Commissioner Ed McDonough said there was no evidence VanDeusen tampered with ballots.

Tom Marcelle, attorney for election inspector Marcia Valenty and the write-in candidates, took the case to Rensselaer County Court, claiming voters received inadequate instructions for a write-in option and the voting machines were set up wrong.

Judge Patrick McGrath agreed with Marcelle and ordered a new election.


Polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. Thursday.

Bob Gardinier can be reached at 454-5696 or by e-mail at bgardinier@timesunion.com.

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