The Democrats won it all in Woodstock, with voters choosing Jeremy Wilber for supervisor and Jay Wenk and Laura Ricci for town board, though a ballot printing snafu may cast a cloud over those victories.
Incumbent Wilber trounced Republican challenger Nancy Schauffler 1062-334, according to unofficial results election night. Deputy Supervisor Laura Ricci was elected to her first term as a voting member of the town board and garnered the highest number of votes of the four candidates vying for two seats with 761, followed by incumbent Wenk with 703.
Councilman Ken Panza, who lost the Democratic primary and ran as a Republican, fell short in his re-election bid, getting 641 votes, followed by Republican Janine Fallon-Mower with 622 votes.
But the talk at both camps was the unfortunate ballot misprint that went undetected by the Ulster County Board of Elections. Instructions on the top of the ballot directed voters to choose only one candidate when there were two open seats. The incorrect ballots were given to voters when polls opened at 6 a.m. until Deputy Clerk Lynn Sehwerert noticed the error when casting her votes at around 7:30 a.m. Board of Elections commissioners Vic Work and Tom Turco raced to Woodstock to instruct poll workers to explain the error to voters and the commissioners posted signs informing voters they could cast two ballots for town board.
“Somehow it got past our proofing,” said Democratic Elections Commissioner Vic Work. “The machine is taking two votes and all the inspectors are telling all the voters to vote for two. The sample ballot has been written over in red, vote for two. There’s one on each table where the ballot masters are and on the wall.”
Work said there’s “no way to tell” how many voters may have cast ballots before the error was discovered. This year, the town clerk’s office didn’t receive early sample ballots as in the past, perhaps resulting in another missed opportunity to catch the error.
As far as what happens next, “Any election can be challenged. But I would wait until we get finished with the absentees,” Work said. The absentee ballots had the correct instructions, he said.
Despite assurances from the Board of Elections, candidates remained concerned.
“The top priority is for the voters of Woodstock’s will to be honored in this race,” said Ricci, who thinks the ballots may have been rushed after a back-and-forth discussion over whether the Women’s Equality Party line should be included.
Panza, who finished 62 votes behind Wenk for the second seat on the board said that the Republicans are kind of in wait-and-see mode and that he hasn’t decided if he’s going to challenge the results. “We haven’t made any decision about that but I think it’s unlikely,” he said. “The results aren’t that close. There’s a 60 vote difference and it’s hard to see how the screw up would have made that much difference. It was discovered at 7:30 a.m. by the deputy town clerk. I voted by about 8:10 and was told about it. People I called who voted later in the day all said they’d been told they could vote for two. If you look at the numbers of who voted then (before the mistake was discovered) it’s pretty small. From what I can see it wasn’t that big of a deal, don’t think it would change the overall results.”
Wenk, elected to his fourth non-consecutive term on the board if the results hold, said he’d go along with a challenge to the result. “I’m hoping that there is not going to be a challenge because the Board of Elections mistake. But if there is, I will support that challenge,” he said. “If I were on the losing end, I would be interested in challenging. As the ostensible winner, of course I would support a challenge.”
Keep town small and beautiful
Even with the ballot snafu, Democrats expressed excitement to serve the town for the next four years.
“A great big thank you to everybody who voted for me, who supported me, who contributed to the election expenses and to everybody who didn’t vote for me,” Wenk said. “I will continue to serve everybody as contentiously as I have done so far.”
Ricci was thankful but more reserved, given some uncertainty of the results.
“Thank you very much for voting. That’s what democracy is all about, the voters coming out and casting their vote,” Ricci said. “I think the process still needs to continue further. There are absentee ballots out there. But, so far, so good, and thank you to the voters.”
Wilber was grateful for his victory, but put things into perspective. “You catch us all now in a very giddy mood. But of course when the sun rises tomorrow, we have to take all this very seriously. The people of Woodstock have put their solemn trust in us and it’s up to us to deliver.”
Wilber said he doesn’t see much difference in the message from all the candidates on both sides. “We want to keep the town small. We want to keep it beautiful. We want to keep it viable for people who live here. We want to protect our resources. We want to protect the environment and I think there’s unanimous agreement that we want to update our comprehensive plan.”
Janine Fallon-Mower said the results were disappointing.
“It looks like Laura, Jeremy and Jay developed a well-oiled machine. They moved their numbers better than I did. That’s all. It’s that simple.”
Panza commented on the disparity in town in which Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 3-1. “Well sure, I’m disappointed. It’s sort of a rejection, although I got a tremendous amount of support. I guess next year I’ll have more time to do different things. I’m glad it’s over. It’s like the casinos in Las Vegas, the numbers work against you.”
Justice Frank Engel, a Democrat who also ran on the Republican line, easily sailed to re-election with 1201 votes over Libertarian challenger Ben Gary Treistman, who garnered 145 votes.
Highway Superintendent Mike Reynolds and Town Clerk Jackie Earley ran unopposed, were endorsed by both parties and were re-elected.
Democrat Jonathan Heppner ran unopposed and was elected with 1664 votes to represent Woodstock, West Hurley and Glenford in the county Legislature’s District 23. He replaces the retiring Don Gregorius.
Brian Hollander contributed reporting to this story.