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The winner of the 11th Senate District race between incumbent state Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose) and challenger City Councilman James Gennaro (D−Fresh Meadows) in northeast Queens has still not been decided. It is now close to two months since the fall general election and the final official results have not been declared. The endless counting and recounting of paper ballots continues.
Within the last few days, attorneys for Padavan and Gennaro have argued their case in court before the state Appellate Division in Brooklyn. The situation now focuses on 2,000 paper ballots, including both absentee and affidavit.
The Gennaro forces want a recount of these ballots, with attorneys from both sides present to observe the tally. They are apparently trying to overcome the 580−vote lead Padavan has.
The Padavan forces are opposing this, since these ballots have already been counted. They want the court to declare Padavan the winner.
Whichever side wins, however, the losing candidate can still appeal to a higher court. In this case, that means appealing to the state Court of Appeals for a final decision. The losing side could take this case into federal court, but that action seems unlikely.
The state Senate is due to begin its 2009 session Jan. 7. If this situation is not resolved by then, it will mean that the registered 11th Senate District voters will not be represented on the Senate floor, since neither candidate has been declared the winner.
One of the most important votes taken by the Senate at the opening session will be the election of the majority leader. This vote may be very close and might be decided without any input from the 11th Senate District. What we are seeing is the electoral process directly affecting our state government’s legislative operations.
The problems in the area we are now experiencing involve paper ballots, where the opportunities for fraud and invalid votes are far greater than through machine voting. Everywhere in Queens this year there has been a considerable increase in the use of these ballots.
In the 29th Assembly District, for example, there was one election district included in the 11th Senate District, which usually has about 10 affidavit ballots. This past election, that number increased to 59.
The question arises as to why there were so many paper affidavit ballots being used. The official reason for giving potential voters these ballots to fill out, as previously indicated, is that the voters’ names do not appear on the Elections Board’s official voter registration list.
The affidavit ballot contains questions for the potential voter to fill out, which include the following:
“Part A — Select one. You must check one of the four boxes and fill in appropriate blanks.
“1. I have been informed by the inspectors that my registration record is not available to them. However, I am duly registered to vote in this election from the address given and I remain a duly qualified voter in this district.
“2. I have moved within the city of New York since my last registration and that address was [blank].
“3. I am enrolled in the [blank] Party.
“4. I was required to present identification when I voted today, but did not do so.”
Part B must be completed by all affidavit voters. They must include their address and date of birth. The potential voter is then supposed to date and sign the affidavit ballot. There is also an oath just above the space for the signature, which reads: “I swear or affirm that false statements made in this affidavit is perjury and punishable according to the law.”
The time has come for the Elections Board to consider holding affidavit voters who make false statements when voting to legally be responsible for their actions. We want to give everyone who is qualified an opportunity to vote, but voting standards must be maintained if our election process is to be truly democratic.
We cannot continue to have election results in the future like what is occurring in the 11th Senate District. Reform is needed.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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