Absentee Ballots, Potential Next Litigation in North Castle Supervisor Race
A nearly deadlocked North Castle supervisor race will likely head to the state Supreme Court this week after Democrat Joe Rende charged that at least five absentee ballots were cast by voters who no longer live in the city.
Early voting statistics and machine totals last Tuesday put Rende up by one vote over Republican Assemblywoman Barbara DiGiacinto, 1,569-1,568.
“There are many ballots that appear to be fraudulent, many of these absentee ballots, and we will appear before a (state Supreme Court) judge on Tuesday and no additional votes have been added yet,” Rende said of his decision. To file a lawsuit in this regard.
Absentee ballots may continue to arrive at the Westchester County Board of Elections in White Plains through Tuesday as long as they are postmarked by Nov. 7. As of late last Tuesday night, the Board of Elections was known to have sent 120 absentee ballots to North Castle voters, at which time 52 voters had returned.
An inspection of the machines is scheduled for Thursday.
DiGiacinto said she is a believer in the process and trusts the Board of Elections will do its job of reviewing ballots and recording votes accurately. She said a candidate has the right to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIL) request to see any absentee votes and follow the necessary legal means to ensure the correct vote count.
However, DiGiacinto took a dim view of Rende’s actions threatening litigation, especially since absentee ballots have not yet been counted.
“In my opinion, I think it is unfortunate that a candidate would want to suppress votes,” DiGiacinto said. “Basically, this is up to the Board of Elections to decide. “It is certainly not my decision or anyone else’s decision but the Board of Elections that determines the validity of any ballot.”
In North Castle’s first contested supervisor race in a decade, and after outgoing Democratic Supervisor Michael Schillero endorsed DiGiacinto and her running mates, Larry Ruisi and Mel Orellana, it was difficult to get a clear read on the election in advance.
DiGiacinto said the city now has twice as many voters registered as Democrats as Republicans, making her race a challenge, but Schiliro’s endorsement may have helped close the gap.
“I definitely never expected it to be this close,” DiGiacinto said. “I don’t think anyone did. But I didn’t think it would be a runaway, just in terms of the number of registered Democrats.”
“We did a good job, and the superintendent was actually very brave in endorsing me, Larry and Mel,” she added.
The absentee ballot count and recount will also help formally determine the second seat up for election in the four-candidate race. Two-term Democratic Councilman Jose Pera finished first with 1,616 votes, 126 votes behind Ruisi, who placed third.
However, Bera’s running mate, Councilor Salim Hussein (1,524 votes), who was in his first re-election bid, polled only 34 votes over Ruisi. Orellana came in fourth place with 1,447 votes, according to the Board of Elections total.
Hussein said that the strong turnout rate in the elections that took place outside the year and voter participation was impressive. In fact, an 18-year-old first-time voter called him directly to ask where he stood on several issues, he said.
The skills and talents of each candidate, which were different, contributed to creating a convincing competition, but Hussein expressed his hope that voters would see the care and seriousness he placed in every decision.
“I think most people see that I’m always working to try to bring consensus into a decision, backed by a lot of logic and thought, at least in a way that makes sense to them, and I feel people appreciate that,” he said. .
Bera also said voters took the time to consider each candidate’s record, and he was pleased that his message appeared to have received support.
“I’m not surprised (by the results) because I think residents are listening carefully to my message about making decisions about what’s best for the city and good government,” Bera said.
DiGiacinto said she was satisfied that she and her running mates ran a campaign with a positive message that refrained from name calling.
Rende said his race was likely close because DiGiacinto has more fame in the city. She has been a lifelong city resident and has been a city council member for the past 10 years.
Regardless of the outcome of the supervisor’s race, DiGiacinto will remain on the board for the next two years to either lead the city or remain in her seat on the board.