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Cape Vincent rescinds illegal local election law

Wind proponents had sought to keep anti-wind seasonal residents from voting in November election

The town board rescinded Thursday an earlier, “invalid” decision to force voters to show their driver’s licenses, with a Cape Vincent address, in order to vote in a town election.

The motion was made by Supervisor Urban K. Hirschey and seconded by Councilman Brooks J. Bragdon, both of whom had voted against the Aug. 11 resolution.

Although several Jefferson County and state Board of Elections officials and town attorney Mark G. Gebo have said that Cape Vincent’s law, Resolution No. 35, violates state law and has absolutely no effect on upcoming elections, Councilmen Donald J. Mason and Marty T. Mason voted against the motion, demanding formal letters from election officials.

“I want to hear something from the state or the county before I pass this myself,” Donald Mason said.

Casting the deciding vote, again, at Thursday’s work session was Councilman Mickey W. Orvis.

At the Aug. 11 meeting, Mr. Orvis had briefly hesitated before voting in favor of the illegal law, saying he could use some legal advice.

“I’m going to vote ‘yes’ to your resolution,” Mr. Orvis told Mr. Hirschey. “The simple reason is, this community is broken enough. This isn’t going to solve anything. This is not going to help the divide. Although I agree with what’s been done, I don’t agree with keep driving a wedge between this side and that side.”

Mr. Orvis said he believes the state should be the responsible agency under Article X when it comes to wind development in order for the town to “start the healing process.”

“I’m not in favor of giving up home rule. But our town has become so divided, I don’t think it’ll ever heal,” he said. “Let’s take wind out of the upcoming election.”

Donald Mason – who is seeking re-election in November along with Marty Mason, and both of whom have leases with wind farm developers – proposed Resolution No. 35 at the last Town Council meeting in response to a successful voter registration drive organized by opponents of wind development in Cape Vincent.

Mr. Mason and other proponents of wind farms in Cape Vincent argued that “unethical, if not illegal, voting methods were implemented to manipulate” the outcome of local elections and attempted to prevent anti-wind seasonal residents from voting with the resolution.

In a letter to the town board, Mr. Gebo called Resolution No. 35 an “invalid” law that does not trump the state election law.

State election law says a person can vote in a local election as long as he or she is a U.S. citizen who meets all the requirements to register to vote in the state and has “lived in the county, city or village for at least 30 days before the election.”

Mr. Hirschey also proposed Thursday that the Town Council hold regular work sessions each month and draft meeting agendas a few days before regular meetings to “minimize surprises,” referring to the Aug. 11 council meeting.