State Supreme Court Justice Margaret Garvey invalidated Ramapo's referendums on establishing a ward system and adding two Town Board members and ordered a do-over.
State Supreme Court Justice Margaret Garvey invalidated Ramapo's referendums on establishing a ward system and adding two Town Board members, ordering that a new vote be held.
In her 14-page decision, Garvey cited the confusion caused by Ramapo Town Clerk Christian Sampson surrounding absentee ballots and who was eligible to cast ballots. She didn't offer a time frame for a new vote.
The petition by Michael Parietti and Robert Romanowski raised questions of impropriety by Sampson in the handling of affidavit ballots, including reviewing applications and rejecting some of them.
Parietti said the judge didn't react well to the town comment that officials knew non-registered voters could cast ballots but didn't inform the public because they claimed they wanted people to register with the Board of Elections.
Parietti said they have not decided whether to appeal, saying they were curious about the vote totals from the machines and paper ballots.
"I feel the town passively resisted Judge Garvey's order to hold a fair and equitable election by publishing misleading information and refusing to respond to multiple requests to clarify the rules," Parietti said.
He said he doesn't believe a vote can be held on Election Day, Nov. 4, because the ballots already are being completed, among other reasons.
Ramapo Town Attorney Michael Klein said the Town Board will decide whether to appeal or hold a new vote. The board meets Wednesday night.
Klein said neither side asked Garvey to order a new election.
"The judge granted relief neither party asked for," he said. "The town had questioned her authority."
Ramapo attorneys conceded in court that the instructions contained on the ballot applications contradicted the requirements of state law, Garvey ruled.
"Specifically, the absentee ballot application, admittedly prepared by the Ramapo Town Clerk Christian Sampson stated to potential voters that absentee ballots would be counted so long as they were postmarked by September 29, 2014 and received no later than the 7th day after the election," she wrote.
The law requires that absentee ballots must be received by 5 p.m. on the date of the election to be canvassed, she said.
Garvey wrote that Sampson's mistakes, in the preparation and dissemination of the absentee ballot applications, were "so egregious and fundamental to the special town election process that it cannot be rectified" with any order directing procedures for the counting of the absentee ballots.
She didn't rule on the town's claims that she lacked jurisdiction since she said she was not overseeing the counting of ballots. Garvey ordered that all ballots be preserved pending any appellate court review of her decision.
Garvey recommended the town use the county Board of Elections' expertise for future special elections, and that it allow poll-watchers even though it is not mandated to do so.