Voter information forum set for tonight in Sackets

A Jefferson County Board of Elections polling site in 2018. Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — The City Council on Monday night agreed to make some changes to clear up how ties should be handled in city nonpartisan city primaries.

Two years ago, a state Supreme Court judge had to decide what to do when mayoral candidates Cody J. Horbacz and Allison I. Crossman came in a two-way tie in the September primary election.

Despite the objection of Jude R. Seymour, Republican county election commissioner, the judge ruled all three mayoral candidates moved on to the general election, which was won by Jeffrey M. Smith.

Since then, Mr. Seymour and Democratic Commissioner Michelle R. LaFave have said they wanted to avoid a repeat of that controversy.

The two election commissioners met with City Council on Monday to discuss a series of recommendations in the language of the city’s nonpartisan election law.

They contended the changes would curtail candidate confusion, protect voter franchise and provide certainty in primary results. Council members agreed to some of the changes.

But City Attorney Robert J. Slye told the election commissioners the changes don’t mean the city also admits that Watertown should pay for the county’s costs associated with June’s City Council primary.

In July, Jefferson County election officials sent a letter billing the city $8,551.68 for costs associated with this year’s primary.

Mr. Slye pointed out during Monday night’s work session that he and council were not admitting the city would pay the bill.

“I don’t think we do,” he said Wednesday, adding that the issue wasn’t resolved on Monday night.

In the past, the county has billed the city $33,219.39 for primaries held in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019. The city never paid for those legal bills, either.

Under state law, the election commission office pays the expenses for administering primaries for towns and villages but expects the city to reimburse the county for its services, city officials have said in the past.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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