Council pushing 3 names on ballot

DAYTONA NILES/WATERTOWN DAILY TIMESCody Horbacz and Allison Crossman react to a tie vote after the Jefferson County Board of Elections tallied the absentee ballots and affidavits last week.

WATERTOWN — With plans for a recount going nowhere, City Council members now will urge the county’s two election commissioners to put three mayoral candidates on the ballot for the November election.

City Council members hope to break the primary stalemate that left mayoral candidates Allison I. Crossman and Councilman Cody Horbacz tied for second place with 597 votes each. Former Councilman Jeffrey M. Smith had the most votes with 837.

If the two Jefferson County election commissioners agree, Mrs. Crossman, Councilman Horbacz and Mr. Smith all would end up on the ballot. If the issue does not get resolved, the stalemate will most likely end up in the courts.

Council members are expected to vote on a resolution on Monday asking the two election commissioners to allow the three candidates’ names on the ballot in November.

This week, Mayor Joseph M. Butler Jr. has tried to find a way to get through the impasse created by a disagreement between Republican election commissioner Jude R. Seymour and Democratic commissioner Babette M. Hall in how to handle the tie.

On Friday afternoon, Mayor Butler said he has no guarantees that the resolution will work.

“I don’t know if this pulls much weight,” he said, adding it was the only option for the City Council to take.

It will now depend on whether Mr. Seymour changes his mind about only certifying Mr. Smith’s name to the ballot and then waiting whether one of the two candidates will take it to court and have a judge decide the matter, the mayor said.

The issue stems from the mayoral race being nonpartisan, and the city’s law doesn’t have a provision in place for ties.

Both candidates said they believe getting all three candidates on the ballot is the most fair thing to do.

“Hopefully, we’ll get this resolved on Monday and move on,” Councilman Horbacz said.

Mrs. Crossman said legally, it’s the “most effective and correct” way to handle the situation.

After talking to the two election commissioners in recent days, Mayor Butler concluded that they did not think a hand-count was justified. He also concluded they did not think a legal authority existed to permit a runoff election.

As the result of the election commissioners rejecting those options, the mayor was forced to ask them to certify the names of all three candidates to advance to the Nov. 5 election.

Mr. Seymour has said he thinks he and Ms. Hall only have a mandate to certify Mr. Smith — although he has said he expects a court will settle the matter — while Ms. Hall calls for all three candidates to be on the ballot.

The issue revolves around a reading of the city nonpartisan election law, which says “the board of elections shall certify under the hand of its secretary or commissioners the names of the persons who received the largest and next largest number of votes for mayor.”

The resolution would support the belief that the law does not list how many “persons” must be put on the ballot.

In a letter to the elections board, Mrs. Crossman’s attorney, John Ciampoli, from the Long Island firm of Sinnreich Kosakoff & Messina, wrote voters should have a choice between all three candidates.

“In the case before your board, two candidates have an undivided share of second place,” he wrote. “Both have earned the right to be on the November ballot. Any contrary decision, or an abdication of the board’s duty to certify the ballot for the general election, would serve to disenfranchise a large number of voters in Watertown.”

Democratic Election Commissioner Babette Hall said earlier this week the non-partisan election law needs to be changed so if there’s another tie, this doesn’t happen again.

Ms. Hall and Mr. Seymour could not be reached for comment late on Friday afternoon.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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(1) comment


"the city’s law doesn’t have a provision in place for ties". What is the trigger that produces a primary election? Does the law state a trigger (e.g., if there are three or more candidates running for one office, then a primary shall be held)? If so, then it would seem that is the basis for holding a second primary (i.e., runoff) of the remaining candidates should the initial primary not change the conditions that mandate a primary (whatever the law may say those conditions are).

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