Like you, we are deeply concerned about the mistake on the Woodstock ballots that became evident during the November 3 election. A proofreading error (and we know all about how those can happen, and live to regret them whenever they do) told voters who went to fill out their paper ballots that they could “Vote for ONE” candidate for the town board, when of course, they were entitled to vote for two. The four candidates for two seats were listed below that unfortunate statement. The polls opened at 6 a.m., the deputy town clerk noticed it around 7:30 a.m. and the county’s two chagrinned but seemingly stoic elections commissioners hustled on up to town and by 8 a.m. or so all the election officials and inspectors had been informed to tell every voter the truth of the matter, and signs had been posted so that each could properly cast ballots.
Laura Ricci came in first (761); Jay Wenk, second (703). Ostensibly they are the winners. Ken Panza was next (641) and Janine Fallon-Mower fourth (622). This does not include absentee ballots, which have a habit of breaking very much like the general election figures.
So, was this election tainted? Should there be a challenge by Panza, Fallon-Mower or the Republican party, which they both represented in this election? Such a challenge would have to take place in the State Supreme Court after certification of the election by the Ulster County commissioners.
A quick legal consultation on the morning after yielded the opinion that not only would the challengers have to prove that there was a mistake (obvious) that likely disenfranchised some voters, but would have to show a likelihood that the outcome could have been different.
So, what do you get? Anecdotally, I’m told, maybe ten to 15 voters might have come through each of four polling places before the commissioners arrived. There are 62 votes separating the second place winner and the third place out of the money finisher. If you could definitively find that there were as many as 62 voters in the time after the polls opened and before the mistake was discovered, you’d then have to show a likelihood that every one of those ballots might include a vote for Ken Panza, and none for Jay Wenk. So it’s a pretty high bar for a court to overturn such an election.
We would not call this a ‘tainted’ election. It’s likely that the final vote reflected the public’s desire. We’ll lament that some voters didn’t get a square deal, and hope that the Board of Elections can avoid mistakes such as this.
And congratulations to the electoral victors, Jeremy Wilber, Laura Ricci, Jay Wenk, Frank Engel, Mike Reynolds, Jackie Earley, and Jon Heppner. All know their jobs and we’re lucky to have their representation.