This week the Westchester County Board of Elections ruled unanimously to invalidate the results of the Croton Republican Committee nominating caucuses. The result is that the candidates for Mayor and Trustee will not appear on the ballot under a Republican Party line on election day, March 20, 2007.
In response to an objection filed by a Croton Democrat, on February 13, 2007, the Board of Elections issued a letter reflecting the unanimous decision of both the Republican and Democratic Commissioners. It stated in part: “…the certificates are invalid based on non-notice of the Republican caucus at the Board of Elections (§15-108c). The above mentioned candidates will not appear on the ballot for the upcoming Croton on Hudson Village election.”
“We believe that political parties have an obligation to ensure that elections are run fairly according to the rules and that’s why we filed an objection.” said Paul Rolnick, Democratic Committee chair, “While the Republican candidates may try to blame others, the fact is that they have only themselves to blame for their predicament. How can candidates who can’t follow simple election rules handle a $15 million village budget and all the complexities which go with managing village government?”
Following an improperly announced and recorded Independence party caucus held by only 2 party members in 2006 to nominate the GOP slate, Croton Democrats determined they needed to watch this year’s process very carefully. On January 25, 2007, the local Democrats had written 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. In reply, the Board of Elections issued a split decision, essentially stating the objection had been filed prematurely, before the actual nominating caucuses had been held and the resulting paperwork had been filed. The objection and the Board’s split decision were distributed to the Republican and Democratic committees.
Unbeknownst to the local Democrats, an Independence Party member also challenged the legality of the 2007 Independence Caucus in Croton held to nominate the GOP slate. The Westchester Integrity Committee has been a county wide watchdog effort to avoid co-opting of the Independence Party. As of the filing deadline, no Independence Party nominations had been filed. Therefore, no Independence Party line will appear on the March 2007 ballot.
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 what state law terms “fatal flaws.” The principal errors cited were lack of adequate notice to the public of the caucus’s time and place, a fundamental requirement in state election law.
“No one has been disenfranchised here,” said John Harbeson, Democratic Committee vice-chair, “Voters who want to vote for Greg, Tom, or Susan can certainly do so on their Alliance Party line. The point is that preserving the integrity of democratic elections depends crucially upon all parties adhering to the rules of the game. And enforcement of the rules depends upon the vigilance of the competing parties themselves.”
The Village ballot will now read as follows on March 20, 2007:
For copies of the correspondence on this matter, see www.crotondems.org/press.