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Wettje to Appeal Rulings on Orangetown Votes

UPDATED with response from Incumbent Andy Stewart, who has a two-vote lead over challenger Walter Wettje for Orangetown Supervisor pending an appeal by Wettje, which is expected to be filed Friday.

The 2013 Orangetown Supervisor election is not yet.

Republican challenger Walter Wettje declared his intent to appeal rulings by Acting State Supreme Court Judge Victor Alfieri to toss out some absentee ballots in Orangetown. He called for six remaining absentee ballots to be counted and six more to not be counted. 

Alfieri made his rulings Tuesday and six of the remaining absentee ballots were counted at the Rockland County Board of Elections Wednesday. With those votes, incumbent Democrat Andy Stewart had two more vote than Wettje, so Stewart would retain the office unless the appeals process changes the vote total.

For more on the process through Wednesday, see this report on Patch. 

"We have just finished a five week long post-election process in order to ensure that all valid absentee and provisional ballots were fairly counted in accordance with New York State law," Stewart wrote in a statement sent out Thursday. "This process concluded yesterday when the Board of Elections counted the final unopened absentee ballots, giving me a narrow 2-vote win. While I understand Mr. Wettje's frustration at the outcome of this election (as I would surely have been equally frustrated had I lost by 2 votes) I urge him to withdraw his appeal and allow this election to come to a full and final conclusion."

Wettje said the Notice of Appeal will be filed Friday and he expects the case to be heard in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, Second Department in Brooklyn next week. Rockland County Board of Elections officials and both parties will be in Alfieri's court 11 a.m. Friday as the judge is asked to rule on certification of the results as they stand now.

"I will pursue all necessary legal avenues to overturn (Tuesday's) decision by Acting State Supreme Court Judge Victor Alfieri that denied some Orangetown citizens their right to vote," Wettje said through a statement released Thursday. "Andy Stewart’s legal efforts clearly targeted voters who demonstrated an undeniable intent to vote yet their absentee ballots were disqualified. I will vigorously fight for these ballots to be restored to the count."

Wettje said that ballots from voters who demonstrated their intent to vote were disqualified and that he would fight to see those ballots counted. 

"The disenfranchised voters include a 91-year-old World War II veteran and his 90-year-old wife, who both filled out their ballots correctly, but mistakenly signed each other's envelopes. He fought for our freedom against the German army in France, but his right to vote is now being denied because of a technicality cited by Andy Stewart that isn't consistent with the intent of the law. There are several other similar examples of this in Judge Alfieri's ruling.

"I am greatly appreciative of all the support that I have received from Orangetown residents during this extensive process and I remain committed to ensuring that every legitimate vote is counted. I am confident my appeal will be successful."

Stewart pointed out that Wettje also filed petitions to have votes not counted. 

"It is more than a little hypocritical for Mr. Wettje to accuse me of attempting to disenfranchise voters since the lawsuit he filed, had it been successful, would have prevented over 40 voters from having their ballots counted," Stewart said. "In contrast, my attorney challenged only a dozen ballots that exhibited serious legal defects. 

"Judge Alfieri's decision was impartial and fair to both sides. Of the 54 ballots which my opponent and I were litigating over, the Judge allowed 48 to be counted while rejecting only 6. Mr. Wettje would have the public believe that these ballots were rejected for frivolous reasons, but this is simply not the case. Though Judge Alfieri admitted he was sympathetic to the fact that an innocent mistake could lead to the invalidation of a vote, he explained that state election law and many court precedents were crystal clear, and required him 'to adhere to a strict application of the law when it pertains to the actual election process.' Mr. Wettje's objections might therefore be better directed at the State Legislature which wrote the election law, than at the decision in this case.
Sara S December 12, 2013 at 04:25 PM
Who was it who said that Stewart was a sore loser for going to court? What say you now about your own candidate? I personally have no problem with Wettje appealing, that's his Constitutional right to due process, however, I would like for whoever called Stewart a sore loser to come back here and call Wettje one - just in the interest of fairness and to show a lack of hypocrisy.
Michael N. Hull December 12, 2013 at 06:55 PM
As I mentioned in a previous comment on this issue I am a Republican resident of Clarkstown who has no axe to grind about Orangetown politics ...... I quote: ...... "The disenfranchised voters include a 91-year-old World War II veteran and his 90-year-old wife, who both filled out their ballots correctly, but mistakenly signed each other's envelopes. He fought for our freedom against the German army in France, but his right to vote is now being denied because of a technicality cited by Andy Stewart that isn't consistent with the intent of the law. There are several other similar examples of this in Judge Alfieri's ruling." ----- I was in court during the testimony of several of these witnesses whose ballots were found to be invalid ------ As I recall the 90 year-old wife testified at length that her husband and she were quarreling, as they apparently do frequently, and that it was she who was filling out the ballots during the quarrel. She also testified that her husband did what she told him to do. I gathered from what she said that he was not in her view competent to fill out the ballot. To make out that this case is a technicality cited by Stewart who is therefore discriminating against a WW II vet is ridiculous. The law requires that there be a proper chain of custody of an absentee ballot. .......... In another case two brothers signed the other's ballots. They testified that they did not bother to check which name was on which ballot they signed and that further their father had put Wettje's name on both ballots. Again I can not see an appellate court ruling that a ballot made out to one person and signed by another person can possibly be valid. ........ Another person returned from vacation on Election Day to find his absentee ballot had been returned because of some error HE made. Instead of going to the polls that day and voting in person he sent in the corrected absentee ballot which I understand arrived late. ......... The law is clear as to when an absentee ballot must be postmarked. The law is the law is the law. It protects everyone and must be upheld even when at the end of the legal process things do not turn out as one might have expected or wished.
Sara S December 12, 2013 at 11:47 PM
Of course it's ridiculous to claim that a WWII vet is being discriminated against it just makes for a good soundbite for politicians who know their supporters won't bother to look beyond a superficial soundbite; which gives us indication what type of supervisor he will be if he comes out ahead after the appeal. And last I checked WWII vets still must abide by our laws.
Walt December 13, 2013 at 08:55 AM
Ridiculous and superficial? So basically you think it's okay to disenfranchise elderly voters who made a simple mistake and signed each others ballot because it helps your candidate. Your true colors are shining through and it's a dark shade of hypocrisy.
Kristen Stavisky December 13, 2013 at 09:46 AM
For the record, Mr. Wettje and Mr. Stewart both filed initial petitions in Supreme Court. Mr. Wettje's petition was dismissed. They BOTH went to court. Check in the County Clerk's Office: Index Numbers 2259-2013 and 2260-2013
Reality December 13, 2013 at 11:40 AM
@Michael Hall....since you brought up the "competency" of a WWII veteran, did you also "happen to recall" the competency of the numerous democratic votes from Rockland Psychiatric Center??
Michael N. Hull December 13, 2013 at 02:26 PM
I didn't bring up the competency of the WW II vet. I just reported what was said under oath on the stand by his wife who brought it up. The judge listened and the judge decided on the law. I think all of the absentee ballots except 6 were deemed to be in accordance with the election laws and were counted. Anyway it goes to the Appelate Court. I think the law is that it is the voter who is responsible for not making a mistake and it is not the courts that have the obligation to correct such mistakes. Also I mentioned before that I am a registered Republican and reside in Clarkstown. So I am just calling it as I saw it. It does not affect me who is the Supervisor in Orangetown - the organization that I work with was simply observing the process.
Sara S December 14, 2013 at 01:01 AM
Reality - are you saying that all residents or Rockland Psychiatric are ineligible to vote? You might want to recheck the law on that one.
Reality December 14, 2013 at 04:20 PM
No what I'm saying is that if we are checking into the competency of a WWII veteran, someone should be checking into the competency of RPC residents to make sure they have the capacity to know who they are voting for and not having someone fill them out on their behalf!

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