- Rich Klein
OUTCOME OF TOWN OF FALLSBURG SUPERVISOR RACE WON'T BE KNOWN TILL AFTER DECEMBER 6
Updated: Dec 8, 2021
VEGLIANTE LEADS BY ABOUT 100 VOTES AFTER RECANVASSING
(This is a developing story that was updated at 12:45 am on Wednesday)
Lawyers for the campaign of Town of Fallsburg Supervisor Steve Vegliante and his opponent, Katherine Rappaport (Preserve Sullivan) agreed Tuesday that Vegliante, the Democrat incumbent, now holds a lead of between 96 and 100 votes after re-canvassing took place at the Sullivan County Board of Elections.
Acting State Supreme Court Justice Mark Meddaugh is presiding over the case, which had a status conference on Tuesday. Both candidates had filed lawsuits in State Supreme Court/ Sullivan beginning 10 days after the general election on November 2.
Now, both candidates - for the balance of this week - will review challenged ballots in their race at the Sullivan County Board of Elections along with observers from both sides.
That will be followed early next week with lawyers for both candidates expected to file motions in State Supreme Court/ Sullivan. Rappaport's attorney, Jeffrey T. Buley, told the court on Tuesday that he expects to file a motion to dismiss Vegliante's suit on Monday, December 6. Vegliante's attorney, A. Joshua Ehrlich, said he would likely file a response to that motion the following day. That would mean that any final order from Meddaugh about the outcome of the election would likely not occur before December 8 or 9, at the earliest.
Before polls closed on Election Day, Vegliante led Rappaport by 406 votes. But Rappaport filed a lawsuit contesting the election result on November 12 .
"Unofficial election night returns indicate this contest is exceedingly close, " wrote Rappaport attorney James Curran in the lawsuit. "As such, the final outcome will hinge upon the re-canvass of voting machine ballots and the canvass of all other paper ballots, including emergency ballots, affidavit ballots, absentee ballots, special ballots and military ballots."
That was followed by a countersuit by Vegliante two days later. Vegliante has reportedly challenged some 950 absentee ballots in all, which election observers say is an unusually high number of absentees for a Town of Fallsburg supervisor election. Vegliante has accused his opponent, with the alleged help of the Republican Party apparatus at the local and state level, of securing many votes illegally from voters not registered in Sullivan.
One of the issues raised by Ehrlich in court on Tuesday was that some Rappaport voters were "actually registered at a supermarket and this is something that might be, that should be, brought to the Board (of Elections) and maybe they should review the address." No further information about the supermarket in question was immediately available. "Maybe I should save that for my response," Ehrlich told the court.
Jeffrey T. Buley, the attorney for Rappaport in court on Tuesday, did not directly respond to the supermarket allegation. But he did criticize Vegliante for filing his suit late in the process.
Ehrlich said that of 406 ballots counted today (Tuesday), 310 went for Rappaport and 120 were for Vegliante. "That's where we stand today," Ehrlich told the court. My client sill leads by approximately 96 votes."
Buley said "conceptually" the lead is approximately 100 votes for Vegliante with some 400 ballots set aside for the court."
Assistant County Attorney Thomas Cawley, representing the Board of Elections, said that of 991 paper ballots passed, 402 were objected to - and almost all by Vegliante.
Meddaugh said in court Tuesday that he would direct the Board of Elections to permit Ehrlich - this week to check election registration book signatures against actual ballot signatures.
(Here's the earlier story published before Tuesday's conference)
A status conference is scheduled at 4pm today in the legal battle that will ultimately decide the winner in the Town of Fallsburg supervisor race between Democrat incumbent Steve Vegliante and Preserve Sullivan candidate Katherine Rappaport.
The dispute is over some 950 absentee ballots.
Sources with knowledge of the battle say that both the State Democratic Committee and State Republican Committee are each putting legal and financial resources into the dispute.
The outcome of the case will ultimately also decide the winners in the races for two town council seats. There, Democrat incumbents Nathan Steingart and Michael Bensimon (who ran on a slate with Vegliante) hold leads over Sean Wall-Carty, a Republican, and Miranda Behan (Taxes Too High), both who ran on a slate with Rappaport and received the endorsement of the Sullivan County Republican Committee and Sheriff Michael Schiff.
Bensimon and Behan both ran on the Working Families line as well.
At the close of polls on Election Day, Vegliante led by 406 votes in the "unofficial results" before the start of absentee ballot counts by the Sullivan County Board of Elections.
The conference, before Acting State Supreme Court Justice Mark Meddaugh, stems from lawsuits filed by each candidate against the other - with the County Board of Elections also listed as a defendant in both.
(THIS IS A DEVELOPING STORY)