Repeat, rinse, repeat
Since Dec. 19, Ulster County Board of Elections officials have been hand counting over 53,000 ballots cast in November’s district attorney election. The recount, mandated by the narrow 77-vote win by Democrat Dave Clegg, could have been waived by his opponent, GOP candidate Michael Kavanagh, who instead chose to proceed with the taxpayer-funded recount, citing his obligation to voters to “to permit the legal process to play out.” Fair enough. His hopes for winning depend on an unlikely glaring error in the November count or on rejecting ballots that have stray or irregular markings. (Voters: Did your marking pen accidentally touch the ballot and leave a scratchy line somewhere? Too bad.) To date, a recount of nearly half of the votes has turned up a reported net one possible vote for Kavanagh.
As the current chief assistant district attorney, Kavanagh will assume the DA title — and presumably the salary — and command of the office on Jan. 1. If the recount confirms Clegg’s win, Kavanagh will step down and allow the transition to the Democrat’s administration, a transition that is now held in abeyance by the recount.
Or will he step down? Kavanagh’s team has suggested that an appeal of the judge’s rulings on absentee and affidavit ballots — a judge both sides approved — could be launched, extending his tenure in the DA office. His legal costs would come from his pocket, or perhaps more likely, from GOP committee coffers.
Kavanagh can’t claim that an appeal is mandated or demanded by voters, who can ask: What or who would be satisfied by a Hail Mary attempt to reverse what is no doubt a difficult loss? Kavanagh has served Ulster County residents for years. What decisions will he make to serve their interests now?
Rascoe’s two points
The purpose of this letter is twofold. First, I must apologize to Democrat Chairman Frank Cardinale for bringing his name into my comments regarding Democrat Elections Commissioner Ashley Dittus’ comments to the press. In the ten years we have served as county chairmen at the same time, Frank and I have always maintained a sense of civility in all of our contacts and I was out of line in including him in my previous press release.
Secondly, and most importantly, I have no doubt that had the Democratic candidate for district attorney been behind by less than 100 votes that Ms. Dittus would be singing a very different tune regarding the need for a recount in that race. Her statements, given her position as an elections commissioner, disparaging Mike Kavanagh’s decision to seek a recount are so obnoxious, inappropriate and so hypercritical as to almost defy description. Without a doubt they reveal that she is overtly partisan and more concerned with electing members of her party than insuring that elections conducted in Ulster County are fair and that the candidate chosen by a majority of the voters is in fact the one elected. As a duly-appointed commissioner of the Board of Elections one would think that it’s her job to insure that elections are fairly conducted and the final vote accurately tabulated. After all, her salary is paid by all the taxpayers of Ulster County and not by one political party. More to the point, Ms. Dittus by her comments has left little doubt that she cannot fairly and objectively execute the responsibilities of that office. At the very least she should recuse herself from any further involvement in the DA’s race and should not participate in this recount.
As for her claim that a recount is unnecessary, Ms. Dittus conveniently failed to mention that it is a matter of public record that the Board of Elections encountered serious problems while tabulating the votes in this race and made significant mistakes in the vote totals they finally posted after the election. Initially, the early voting results were not included in the online postings of the results. Another example — in its initial calculation of the votes received by each candidate the board originally gave the Democratic candidate more than 3,000 votes than he actually received on the Libertarian line. And this error was not discovered by the board until long after the polls had closed and only corrected when questions were raised by the Kavanagh campaign as to the accuracy of this count.
And to make matters worse the vote totals in this race as reported on the board’s official website were significantly altered and changed two days after the election. That circumstance, coupled with the fact that the board had to suspend its operation on Election Night and could not complete its count until the following day because a key employee had to be hospitalized because of a medical emergency, raises serious and legitimate questions regarding the accuracy of the board’s final count in this election. The facts remain that there are many folks concerned and have questions on the results, thereby making a recount clearly in the public interest.
While Ms. Dittus is certainly entitled to express her opinions, please don’t tell me that a mistake could not have been made in the tabulation of this vote. Mistakes were made and corrections were made and as a result, a recount is warranted and clearly necessary. Even Gov. Cuomo is sponsoring legislation mandating recounts in elections where the outcomes are so close because a recount in such a circumstance is clearly in the public interest. I suspect that Ms. Dittus, if asked, would agree with the governor and again, if the shoe was on the other foot, she would be beating a drum demanding that there be a recount.
Roger Rascoe, chairman
Ulster County Republican Committee