Esslie-Frenia Law June 2023 Leaderboard

Lawyers meet on vote challenge

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TAGHKANIC–Judge Jonathan Nichols agreed this week to meet with attorneys involved in the ongoing challenge to absentee ballots cast in the November 3 election in an attempt to finally resolve the contest.

The conference, which was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon December 30 at the Hudson Elks Lodge on Harry Howard Avenue, was to be open to the public and is only the latest skirmish in an on-going dispute fueled by the county Republican Committee’s effort to disqualify people who own second homes in the county from voting here.

Several of the Taghkanic town races in last fall’s election will not be decided until all the votes are counted, although the race for town supervisor is settled. Incumbent Republican Elizabeth Young won that contest with a total of machine and unchallenged absentee ballots greater than the number of ballots that have yet to be counted.

The challenges sparked considerable controversy because lawyers for the county GOP have used private investigators and have received permission to subpoena voters’ personal financial and real estate records. Democrats fighting the challenges say the tactics are intrusive and smack of intimidation.

A December 18 ruling by a state Appellate Division panel of judges found that challenges to voter qualifications on the basis of residency must be made prior to Election Day, something the county Republicans had not done. Subsequent to the ruling, a lawyer for the GOP said the party would now check the “veracity” of ballots.

“If ‘veracity’ is a backdoor way for their lawyers to argue back to a residency objection, then the Democratic Party will continue to object,” said Chris Nolan, chairman of the Columbia County Democratic Committee, who said that the Republicans have not lodged any specific complaints about individual ballots.

Observers said members of the two parties clashed on another front at the town of Taghkanic’s year-end meeting December 28 over two proposals, neither of which was adopted by the Town Board. One proposal reportedly expressed concern about the legality of absentee ballots and the way in which the county Board of Elections has conducted its business. It was discussed but was not presented as a motion.

Outgoing Democratic Town Board member Erin Edwards said after the meeting that she had prepared a resolution in support of the voting rights of second home owners. She said that measure did come to a vote and was defeated 3 to 2.

In one of her final acts as a Town Board member, Ms. Edwards requested that a link to a Republican website be removed from the town’s official website.

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