This week, a State Supreme Court judge ordered the Rockland County Board of Elections to comply with the Election Law and process and count certain absentee ballots. In Matter of Perrotta, et al v. The Rockland County Board of Elections, Supreme Court Judge Robert M. Berliner found the County Board of Elections improperly refused to provide absentee ballots to five individual Petitioners.

The lawsuit was necessitated after the Rockland County Board of Elections sent a letter to each of the five Plaintiffs informing them that their respective applications for absentee ballots were refused.

New York State Election Law allows a registered voter to cast his/her vote by absentee ballot if a voter meets one of the following criteria:

(1) Absent from your county or, if a resident of New York City absent from said city, on Election Day;

(2) Unable to appear at the polls due to temporary or permanent illness or disability; or because you are the primary care giver of one or more individuals who are ill or physically disabled;

(3) A patient or inmate in a Veterans’ Administration Hospital; or

(4) Detained in jail awaiting Grand Jury action or confined in prison after conviction for an offense other than a felony.

In this action, the Plaintiffs submitted applications for absentee ballots prior to the September 10, 2013 primary. All of the five Plaintiffs received their absentee ballots and voted in the primary election. However, on September 20, 2013 (10 days after the primary) the Board of Elections issued a letter stating that they were returning the voters absentee ballots which could not be processed. The Board of Elections claimed that the voters must provide “Away and return dates in M/D/Y format.”

What makes this case puzzling is that it was only after the primary election that the Board of Elections made a determination that the applications were improper. The Board of Elections received, processed and sent out absentee ballots to each of the Plaintiffs for the primary election thus determining the application complete and proper. Each of the Plaintiffs submitted his/her application on the form prepared by the Board of Elections.

The Rockland County Board of Elections is the county department charged with running complete and fair elections. The Board has two Co-Commissioners. Louis Babcock is the Republican commissioner and Kristen Zebrowski Stavisky is the Democratic commissioner.

Plaintiffs were represented by Guy T. Parisi, Esq. of Rye, New York. According to Mr. Parisi, after a hearing on October 11, 2013, Judge Berliner issued an Order from the bench immediately requiring the County Board of Elections to process the request for absentee ballots and forward such ballots. Additionally, the Board of Elections is to issue a letter to each person affected by the Board of Election’s determination of its error.

With so many voters becoming disenfranchised with the upcoming elections by various candidates making claims against the other one can hardly wonder why the Board of Elections would make such an unreasonable determination. The Board of Elections should fulfill their duties by running a proper, impartial election, not by becoming defendants in an action by a registered voter only looking to exercise their constitutional rights in casting a ballot.

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