Eight Bovina residents may choose to vote in Bovina even though they each own homes elsewhere, according to Supreme Court Justice Kevin M. Dowd.
Dowd issued a written decision Tuesday restoring the eight Bovina voters to the election rolls.
The Delaware County Board of Elections commissioners removed the eight people _ Hall Willkie, Juliet Lauricella, Thomas Lauricella, David Hendricks, Julianne Bond-Shapiro, David Spry, Maria Spry and Stephen Robbins _ from the Bovina voting rolls earlier this year after an investigation by the county Sheriff’s Department.
In the five-page decision, Dowd said it was clear that they all expressed an intent to vote in Bovina, had renounced their right to vote elsewhere and that they all have “legitimate, significant and continuing attachments to their voting residence of choice.”
Dowd also directed the Delaware County Board of Elections to apply the same standard in future determinations of voting residence for dual residents in connection with registration applications and any challenges to registrations.
Democratic Elections Commissioner William Buccheri indicated Wednesday he did not agree with Dowd’s decision, but would not say whether he was contemplating an appeal. Buccheri said further comment would wait until he consulted with the county attorney.
Richard Spinney, county attorney, is away on vacation, according to his secretary.
Deputy county attorney Porter Kirkwood did not return a phone call Wednesday.
Republican Elections Commissioner William Campbell did not return to the Board of Elections Office after lunch Wednesday because he was ill, said Robin Alger, deputy commissioner.
During a court appearance Sept. 8, Spinney said the Delaware County Sheriff’s Department investigated after a complaint was made to the local BOE that these people should not be voting in Bovina.
The Sheriff’s Department filed a report with the BOE, indicating that the eight did not have their primary homes in Bovina, Spinney said.
When they did not provide income-tax forms showing Bovina was their primary residence, they were removed from the rolls.
Outside the courtroom Sept. 8, Spinney said the action was related to controversy over wind turbines proposed for the area.
Dowd wrote, “There was a local controversy in the town of Bovina that ended up at the polls. The eight petitioners in this case took the side which ultimately prevailed. In what is becoming a trend in America, the losers sued.”
The eight voters were represented by Peter Henner of Clarksville and Bruce Kraus of Manhattan.
Kraus said the eight plaintiffs consider Bovina their home, although they have other homes. Under state law, they have a right to choose either one of their homes as their residence for voting purposes, he said.
Court papers submitted on behalf of the plaintiffs, including Willkie, nephew of former presidential candidate Wendell Willkie, show that many had driver’s licenses listing a Bovina address.
State elections law states that a voting address is a fixed, permanent address to which one always intends to return, Kraus said.
Although these eight people may have business interests elsewhere, they do intend to return to Bovina and consider it home, he said.
Dowd wrote, “It appears the Delaware County Board of Elections relied on certain wording found in a pamphlet put out by the state Board of Elections. The wording was used by them in their decision striking petitioners from the voting rolls. Their decision was wrong.”
“Dual residents have always had the right to choose either one of their homes as the one they will vote from,” Kraus said in a media release Wednesday. “And this case will remind election officials that it’s their duty to respect the voter’s choice.”
This is the second time in less than a week the Delaware County Board of Elections lost cases in Supreme Court.
On Thursday, acting Supreme Court Justice Eugene Peckham ordered a re-canvass of the absentee votes in the Republican primary in the Davenport highway superintendent race after a challenge by Frederick Utter.
Utter sued because he wanted to be present when the absentee votes were counted but was not notified as to when the count would take place, as required by law.
By Patricia Breakey
Delhi News Bureau
1 November 2007
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