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Incumbent wins library seat after half of write-in candidate's votes thrown out

The board voted to throw out any write-in votes that were not the same as how the candidate is listed on her voter registration, including a middle initial.

Wyandanch Public Library board of trustees president Ghenya

Wyandanch Public Library board of trustees president Ghenya Grant, left, attorney David Cohen and trustee Nancy Holliday at a special meeting on the election results on Tuesday. Photo Credit: Newsday/Denise Bonilla

The Wyandanch Public Library board of trustees on Monday voted to throw out half of a write-in candidate’s votes for trustee because they did not include her middle initial.

The 3-1 decision, with the incumbent trustee, Khristian Jones abstaining, resulted in Jones being declared the winner over Katrina Crawford in the Apr. 2 vote. Jones was appointed to the board last month after a nearly yearlong vacancy.

Election clerk Jennifer Martin said there were 13 variations of Crawford’s name written on ballots. On election night, Martin said library attorney David Cohen of Melville approved the counting of two versions: “Katrina N. Crawford” and “Katrina Crawford,” which totaled 100 votes. Jones received 87 votes. The votes were not certified that night. Cohen said he would not  "comment on what advice I gave my client” on election night.

The board voted last month to reject Crawford’s ballot petitions, citing residency concerns, prompting her write-in campaign. After her apparent win, she was again told to provide proof of residency. Wyandanch’s library elections, like most libraries in the state, are not overseen by the county or state board of elections and fall under state education law, which mandates a trustee running for election must have lived in the district for at least a year.

Crawford said in total she provided seven forms of residency proof. Crawford’s attorney, Shawn Cullinane of Lindenhurst, said the board, in executive session, also asked Crawford questions about her residency.

The board then voted in public session to throw out any write-in votes for Crawford that were not the same as how her name is listed on her voter registration, “Katrina N. Crawford,” reducing her vote total to 50.

Board president Ghenya Grant said the decision was “based upon information received in consultation with counsel and information received that coincides with New York State law regarding proof” of possible other individuals with a similar name. A Newsday search did not find any other individuals named Katrina Crawford living in Wyandanch.

Cullinane vowed to appeal the decision.  He said there is case law that supports write-in name variations as acceptable as long as the intent of the voter is clear. Cullinane said it “seems very obvious” that the board does not want Crawford to be trustee.

“They’ve taken every action they can to deny her rightful place on the board,” he said.

Last week voters also rejected the library’s proposed budget, which would have hiked taxes by nearly 39 percent or a $272 increase for the average homeowner. The board on Monday certified the vote count. On election night the library ran out of official ballots for the voting machine and Martin said 17 of the 212 ballots were hand counted.

The board voted to come up with a contingency budget, which would result in the same tax levy as last year.

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