Last year, the Croton GOP leadership collaborated with members of the County’s Independence Party to secure the latter’s ballot line for the March 2006 village election. This year, they again attempted to do so, but were forced to scrub the effort.
Both the GOP and Independence notices for their respective nomination caucuses this year contained what the state election law terms “fatal flaws.” The principal error in both cases was lack of adequate notice to the public of the caucus’s time and place. On January 25, 2007, the local Democrats wrote the Village Clerk and County Board of Elections to go on the record that neither the Croton Republican Caucus nor the Independence Party filed, posted or published notices of their respective caucus as required by Chapter §15-108-2c of the Election Law.
Unbeknownst to the local Democrats, an Independence party member also challenged the legality of the 2007 Independence caucus in Croton. As of this writing, no Independence Party caucus results have been filed with Village Clerk. And the deadline for doing so has now passed.
Candidates for local office get on a ballot either by being selected at an official party caucus—for which strict NYS Election Law procedures exist to ensure adequate public notice so members of the party might know about the caucus—or by collecting enough signatures of voters on non-partisan petition.
In Croton’s village elections, candidates usually have both a major party line, secured by an official GOP or Democratic caucus, and a second ballot line, secured by collecting well over 100 signatures of individual voters on a petition.
In 2006, an Independence Party caucus, attended by only 2 Croton residents, Maria Cudequest and William Rooney, convened and nominated all 3 GOP candidates as their own. Ms. Cudequest and Mr. Rooney failed to supply the required advance notice of the caucus. They also failed to file the required paperwork correctly afterward.
The Croton Democratic Committee could find no Independence Party member, beyond Cudequest and Rooney, who had known their party was holding a caucus to select candidates for village justice and trustee.
Although the Croton Democrats alerted the Village Clerk and the local GOP committee about the caucus’s dubious nature last year, they refrained from taking any public measures or actions to remove the Independence line from the ballot. Nevertheless, the 2006 Independence Party caucus charade led to the GOP candidates securing a second ballot line without the labor of collecting 100 signatures.
This year, to ensure this sleight of hand caucus tactic did not occur again; the Croton Democrats closely checked all the paperwork filed by both the GOP and Independence committees. Surprisingly, in 2007, this year the same flaws in their caucus procedure spread like a communicable disease from the Independence Party to the local Republican Committee.
On Friday, February 2, 2007, once the local Republican Committee submitted its caucus results, the Croton Democrats filed an official objection to the Republican caucus for lack of adequate notice, among other flaws.
“In our view last year’s election was marred by a nomination process for Mayor Schmidt and his slate that deceived voters.” said Paul Rolnick, Democratic Committee chair, “Our goal for this year is simply to insure that the election process is as fair and open as possible.”
“The two party system only works if both parties use the same play book.”, Rolnick noted, “ In this case, state election law is pretty clear. It is our belief that the GOP candidates clearly held an illegal nominating caucus.”
“If one side is gaming the system, we think the public should be aware of that.” said John Harbeson, Democratic Committee vice chair, “After all, if the Mayor and Deputy Mayor are willing to undermine the integrity of the election process, why would we put them in charge of the village budget and government?”
For copies of the Democratic correspondence on this matter and the Democratic caucus nomination certificate and notices, see www.crotondems.org/press.