A lawyer working for the Columbia County Republican Party stopped the counting of absentee ballots from the Nov 2 Ancram town elections, challenging the remaining 85 ballots. The challenges brought the counting of absentee votes on Monday to a halt, as Democrat Madeleine Israel had cut her Republican opponent’s lead to only 4 votes. Israel was 17 votes behind on Election Day, but had received a majority of absentee votes when the vote was stopped.
The issue will go before a County Judge later this month. If the matter goes to appeal, which seems likely, a delay of weeks or months will prevent the takeover of the Town Board by a reform slate, including Israel.
In Ancram, as elsewhere in Upstate New York, local politics have long been in Republican hands. In recent years, Ancram has seen an increase in Democratic voters, as more city people buy second homes in the area. Prior to this fall election, GOTV efforts by Democrats included a push to register these second home owners. The County Republican Committee lawyer challenged ballots from any second home owner, using a data base compiled by a private investigator also hired by the County Republicans.
An recent appellate decision (Hall F Willkie, et al. v. Delaware County Board of Elections) reaffirmed the right of second homeowners and weekenders to vote from their second home addresses.