Judy Cartwright Judy Cartwright

Judy Cartwright writes the Community Watchdog column

"I don't think I am guilty of anything but being courteous to another human being."

That's how Louis Grottano reacted when the parking ticket arrived in the mail. The accompanying photo showed his car extending past a handicap parking space into the adjacent striped section. The notice from the Huntington Traffic Violations Bureau said this: "Stopping, standing or parking in a [striped] transfer area is prohibited whether or not you possess an appropriate handicap permit."

But Grottano, who has a handicap parking tag, knows the rules. "The reason I parked as I did was to give courtesy to the gentleman visible in the picture while he helped his handicapped wife in the car."

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The photo shows a man standing next to an open passenger door, which extended into the spot Grottano chose.

"It is clear to see [in the photo] I am still behind the wheel of my car ... (look at the reflection in mirror driver's side) waiting for him to move so I could adjust my car in the space properly," Grottano wrote to the Traffic Violations Bureau. He said his wife and her health care aide were also in the car.

On the day the ticket was issued, in July, he was headed from his home in Wantagh to the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center and made a stop along the way at a Home Depot in Commack.

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"If there was room in the aisle near the handicapped parking spaces, I would have not moved over into the striped space," he said. "But I was there for the duration of time the older fellow was putting his wife in their car."

So he pleaded his case. When three months passed without a response, he contacted us:

"After several unanswered messages, I went to Town Hall and a very nice young man tried to help me . . . and told me he would ask his supervisor to have the case stop accruing additional fines [late fees] until this is over. . . I hate to have something like this have no formal ending and come back and haunt me."

He was the last to learn that his ticket had been dismissed.

"The ticket was voided on Nov. 11" after Grottano made his case, town spokesman A.J. Carter told us last month.

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Huntington relies on volunteers to enforce handicap and fire zone parking violations. They take photos and fill out a "sworn affidavit detailing the infraction," according to the town's website.

"I applaud whoever is snapping these photos. They are doing a great service," Grottano wrote. But, he continued, when the photo doesn't convey the whole story, "people who try to be courteous get slapped with an undue fine."

In this case, a fine of $230.

A letter from the town, postmarked Feb. 20, arrived a few days later with the official verdict: Balance due, zero.

 

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Readers didn't hesitate to express skepticism toward a recent column about the lists of voters that poll workers make on Election Day. Several said they weren't dissuaded from their belief that the lists can be correlated with the sequence of ballots and thus reveal how any of us has voted.

The column quoted John Ryan, one of the attorneys for the Nassau County Board of Elections, saying the lists cannot be linked to specific ballots.

One Nassau resident who contacted us, and who asked not to be identified because he has worked at polling places, said he believes a voter's privacy can be violated because ballots are numbered. When a voter checks in, workers "put the ballot number next to their name" on the list, he said.

We spoke with Ryan again.

He agreed that there is a number. But it's not on the ballot.

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It's on the ballot stub.

Before a ballot is handed to a voter, he said, it is detached from the numbered stub. Poll workers keep the stubs in sequence to "make sure no ballots are missing or that one hasn't been given out," Ryan said, then added:

"Ballots are not numbered and there can be no correlation."

Numbers aside: Could the numbered names correspond to the sequence of stacked ballots after they're cast? Ryan said votes typically are not cast in the order of names on the numbered list. "If you're Number 25, you're probably not the 25th person" to scan a ballot, he said.

Suffolk County Republican Elections Commissioner Nick LaLota said ballots come in packs of 50, numbered sequentially, and the numbered stub "remains in the binding with the poll inspector. Once it's torn off, any sequencing is lost."

He, too, said it would be unlikely for ballots to correspond to the order of names on the list. "The process is more random," he said. "Different voters take different amounts of time" to mark their ballots.

"So there's no way to tell if Ballot 43 is assigned to Judy Cartwright. ... The part you keep [the ballot] doesn't have the sequencing number."

And, he added: There's no way to figure out how someone voted, "absent fingerprinting."