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State election board to Nassau: Follow the law

Electronic voting machines at the Nassau County Board

Electronic voting machines at the Nassau County Board of Elections. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

The New York State Board of Elections reached out to the Nassau elections board Thursday to tell it to follow the law.

The Nassau board, with a budget of more than $19 million and upward of 150 employees to maintain voter registration information and manage elections, has not been compiling a canvass of primary election returns as required by state law.

That canvass should include the names of all political party committee members, who are considered elected officials even though the vast majority run unopposed.

The Nassau board acknowledged in a letter to Newsday earlier this month that “Uncontested party positions have not been included in the Board’s canvass of election returns for many years.”

State law says that after a primary election, “there shall be included in the official compilation of the canvass of returns, the names of persons who shall have been nominated for public office or elected to a party position without balloting.”

Parties are entitled to have two committee members for each of Nassau’s approximately 1,100 election districts.

When Newsday asked the state board about the issue, spokesman John Conklin said in an email, “Local boards are not allowed to ignore state law. Once we are alerted to something we will follow-up through the Elections Operations Unit to resolve the issue.”

In an interview Thursday, Conklin said, “If they’re not following the law, we tell them to follow the law . . . prospectively.” He said each local board pays its own lawyers for legal advice.

“For the most part, if they’re not following the law, we tell them to follow the law and they do it,” he said.

Neither Democratic Elections Commissioner David Gugerty nor Republican Elections Commissioner Louis Savinetti responded to an email asking what the board will do now. Each earns $180,314 annually.

Newsday requested committee member lists for the Republican, Democratic and Independence parties after Uniondale community activist Terenna Williams, a Democrat who formerly worked at the board, complained to a reporter that the Nassau board had refused her request for a list of Democratic committee members.

Williams said people from her community wanted to run for committee member posts, but didn’t know which seats were vacant and which were filled. Her community, she said, wants a greater say in Democratic Party decisions.

“I feel very frustrated,” Williams said Thursday. “I feel disenfranchised. I feel the parties do not want transparency in our community. . . . I was trying to get these committee people seats filled. We did not want to remove people already sitting. We wanted to inject.”

Williams said she is supporting County Comptroller George Maragos’ run for county executive as an independent Democrat in part because her community had not been asked for their suggestions when the party decided to nominate Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin) as the Democratic candidate.

“If we’re not involved in the good old boy system, we’re not allowed in,” Williams said. “It’s like two gangs. I call them the Bloodicans and the Cripsocrats If you’re not part of their gang, you’re an outsider and will never make a difference.”

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