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Padavan−Gennaro race has parallels in Minnesota contest

The opening of the 2009 state Senate session Jan. 7 has come and gone. A new majority leader, Malcolm Smith (D−St. Albans), has been elected by his colleagues. The registered voters of the 11th Senate District in northeast Queens, however, had no voice in that voting process because the election to decide who will represent them has not yet been decided.

Since the Nov. 4 election, the two opposing campaigns of incumbent state Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose) and challenger City Councilman James Gennaro (D−Fresh Meadows) have been locked in a continued dispute over the validity of paper ballots. The issue has gone before the courts both in the State Supreme Court and State Appellate Division. Hopefully, a final judicial decision will be rendered soon, although the losing side could appeal the court decision.

The final disagreement between the two sides involves about 1,750 paper ballots, both affidavit and absentee. These ballots were rejected early in the process by Elections Board officials. They were deemed invalid because of not being properly filled out.

Some of the reasons included paper ballots not being signed or the ballots containing names and addresses that were not contained in the board’s list of registered voters. Several of the paper ballots were not legibly written.

For about 2 12 months, the dispute over which ballots to accept and which to reject has been ongoing.

Parallel to this situation, in Minnesota a similar fight over the validity of paper ballots has been in progress between incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken.

The matter is presently before the courts, but the disputes are of such a nature as to make it almost impossible to ascertain the winner of that contest without having another election. There are 100 missing paper ballots that were counted. Some paper ballots were double−counted. There are also 600 absentee ballots that have not been counted and are still in dispute.

As this confrontation works its way through the court system, Minnesotans are being deprived of representation in the U.S. Senate, as the people of the 11th Senate District in Queens are not being represented in the state Senate.

Since the new state senators took their seats, Padavan has not been paid his regular salary, because his election has not been decided. In addition, his Senate staff at his Bellerose district office is still being paid their salary, but not through the Senate members’ budget. Instead, they are being paid by the Senate Operations Center for the time being until this matter is resolved.

Therefore, the district residents will still be able to make use of the local office to address community needs.

If the constant increase in the use of paper ballots continues, what we are experiencing in the district will be occurring in the future with increasing frequency. Today, we have at least 1,750 people who filed invalid or illegal ballots. It is time for the 10 commissioners of the city Elections Board to look into this matter, as well as state Elections Board officials, and come up with a procedure that will encourage citizens to use voting machines and discourage paper ballots.

Consideration should be given to absentee ballots being filed in person and filled out in the presence of Elections Board officials. Likewise, affidavit ballots should be filled out in the presence of designated board officials.

It is important that the statement that appears on the affidavit ballot, which reads, “I swear or affirm that false statements made in this affidavit is perjury and punishable according to the law,” be explained to potential affidavit voters so they understand the ramifications of the voting document.

We want all eligible voters to vote in designated elections, but in a way that upholds the system’s standards and procedures.

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