By Josh Brokaw
The Tompkins County Board of Elections ruled on Monday afternoon that a page of “designating petition” signatures for Keith Hannon, a candidate for Tompkins County Legislature, were invalid.
Hannon, a Trumansburg resident, is running as an Independence Party candidate for Tompkins County Legislature’s District 5 seat, currently held by Democrat Jim Dennis. The seat, representing the Town of Ulysses, Trumansburg, and parts of Enfield and the Town of Ithaca, is also being contested by Democrat Anne Koreman. Dennis recently announced he was withdrawing from the race, after initially announcing a bid for re-election.
The Board of Elections decision left Hannon’s petition short of the required number of signatures to receive a line next to the Independence Party name. According to Board of Elections commissioner Stephen Dewitt, Hannon was left with nine valid signatures after the commissioners’ ruling, when Hannon needed 13 to get his name on the ballot.
“Our petitions have been ruled invalid, and the reason for that is there seems to be a stray pen mark next to or underneath the number “2” when totaling the total number of signatures on the page,” Hannon told supporters after the Board of Elections hearing concluded Monday afternoon. “Now the commissioners at the Board of Elections have assured us they can’t make a judgment call, a mark is a mark, and they have decided to throw out the entire page, which means we don’t have enough signatures to get on the ballot.”
Your correspondent arrived at the hearing just as it was ending, but did catch Hannon’s statement on video:
A full page of 20 signatures was ruled invalid, as a result of an objection filed by Jeffrey Silber, a Town of Ithaca resident and Town of Ithaca Democratic Committee member.
The specific objections were to 23 signatures. Three of the objections were because the specific signer was either enrolled in a party other than Independence or did not live in Ulysses. The remaining 20 were covered under an objection of “improper authentication,” claiming that the place where the number of signatures was totaled and a place where one witness dated his signature appeared to have been altered. Hannon characterized the marks as an accidental pen mark and a water mark, and said he had spent an hour in the Board of Elections office going over the petitions for any issues with a commissioner on July 12 when he submitted the signatures. (Scroll down to see the full, legal language of the objection.)
Regarding the reason for his objection, Silber said, via phone, “basically the laws apply to all of the candidates equally. I think it’s just important that everybody be held to that same standard for the sake of equity.”
Silber added his petition was “not connected with Town of Ithaca [Democratic] committee activities. No one on the Town committee is even aware of this except perhaps my wife.” Silber also said that he does know Democratic candidate Anne Koreman, but this objection was all of his own doing.
“Courts around the state are determining what legislation means,” Silber continued. “My role in the process is to raise an objection. I didn’t write the rules and [Hannon] is certainly welcome to appeal.”
Hannon had a different take after the hearing.
“We are trying to get on the ballot as an independent candidate. Parties don’t like that,” Hannon said. “So parties sent self-appointed prosecutors to knock us off the ballot, which is exactly what happened today … This is wasting a lot of time of a lot of supporters. We have a lot of donors who have stepped up to support this campaign who don’t want to see their investment go down the drain because two lawyers decided to go after a pen mark.”
Hannon said after the hearing that his campaign would most likely appeal the decision, while collecting signatures to gain a line on the ballot as an independent and the “made-up” party name that comes along with an independent bid. Anyone who wants to run for any office as an independent can still circulate petitions until August 22.
“These members of the Democratic committee think you deserve one choice, you deserve an uncontested election,” Hannon said. “That is what they have proven here today, and that is not what we believe. You will have a choice one way or another and we will be one of those choices.”
TruthSayers News will update this story when the Board of Elections releases its official ruling.
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Here’s the full “improper authentication” objection that Silber filed with the Board of Elections.
“Objector is seeking to strike all twenty signatures on page 1 as improperly authenticated. Material alterations were made to two portions of the Statement of Witness. These portions are the statement indicating the number of signatures contained in the petition and the statement indicating the date on which the witness affixed his signature. These alterations appear ot have been made using an ink eradicator or correction fluid (eg., Wite Out) so the original information was no longer visible. These uninitialed, unexplained alterations are material to these petitions because it cannot be determined how many signatures were on the petition when the witness affixed his signature. Furthermore, the absence of any initials authenticating the changes or any explanation or who made the changes or why these changes were made gives rise to the risk of fraud in the petitioning process.”