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Single vote decides Ward 4 primary

September 18th, 2013

If there ever was a perfect example of the importance of one vote it was driven home on Tuesday, Sept. 10 in the City of Newburgh Ward 4 Democratic primary.

Cindy Holmes won that ward’s historic first vote 117-116 over Patricia Sofokles. There remained some hope for Sofokles with reports that a single absentee ballot remained to be counted at 2 p.m. on Monday.

However, that ballot was disallowed by the Board of Elections because the date stamp from the post office was smudged and illegible, Board of Elections Commissioner Susan Bahren said Tuesday morning. Without a date stamp, the ballot would have been unlikely to stand up to a legal challenge.

“A lot of people tried to vote in the election but were turned away because they didn’t live in that ward,” Bahren said.

Candidate Sofokles agrees that there was confusion. In fact, she said many people had no idea where they were to vote and in several cases resulted in key votes being rejected because they were cast in the wrong polling places.

Sofokles provided information Tuesday that makes the decision to disallow that absentee ballot bizarre, to say the least.

“The disallowed ballot was mine,” Sofokles told us. She said she has no illusions of getting her vote counted, but is going to court to fight a decision disallowing another vote that was cast for her. She must appeal the results within 48 hours, she said.

“A friend of mine was confused about the ballot procedure,” she said. “He wrote in my name under my place on the ballot and because of that his vote was rejected,” she said.

If the judge rules that that vote counts, it could result in a 117-117 tie.

Sofokles said the primary proved to be a “disorganized mess.” She said that there was no organization at the polls and votes cast at the synagogue were disallowed because they weren’t placed in a special envelope. That special envelope was supposed to be provided by the Board of Elections – but it wasn’t. Instead, those ballots were in a sealed bag that her poll watchers weren’t allowed to see.

She said one voter was directed to go to the Newburgh Free Academy North Campus (the former North Junior High School) to vote although it wasn’t even a polling place.

The Ward 4 primary vote was declared complete on Monday, Commissioner Bahren said, and there will not be a recount of Ward 4 ballots. Democratic primaries for Wards 1 and 2 resulted in victories for Karen Mejia in Ward 1 and Eugenie “Genie” Abrams in Ward 2.

During this past Thursday’s Newburgh City Council meeting, some residents complained of confusion in the city’s first-ever ward primary election.

Candidate Tim Hayes-el was among those most confused.

During the public comment period of the meeting, Hayes thanked voters for making him the winner of the Ward 1 Democratic primary. When it was suggested that he had lost, Hayes said he had received final word from the Board of Elections that he had, indeed, won.

Asked about Hayes’ statement on Monday, Commissioner Bahren said she didn’t know how Hayes had gotten that impression.

“I gave Tim a copy of the results and it clearly showed that he had lost,” she said. “Perhaps his eyes were playing tricks on him.”

Commissioner Bahren said on Tuesday that the Board of Elections had gone ahead with a re-tabulation of Ward 1 votes with Hayes present but there was no change in the results.

The Democratic primary election for the 4th District County Legislature seat was won by Newburgh City Councilman Curlie Dillard over James S. Thorpe III, 321 to 216. There were four write-in votes cast in that race.


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