Letters: Collecting Names

In your report of Aug. 11 (Council Member Back on Ballot), reporter Jeff Simms incorrectly stated that Beacon City Council candidate Omar Harper will not appear on the Democratic line of the Sept. 12 primary ballot because one sheet of signatures on his nominating petition was thrown out, leaving him short of the 63 names he needed.

In fact, there were a seven sheets of signatures on Ali T. Muhammad’s consolidated nominating petition, in which he collected signatures for both himself and Harper, that were invalid because Muhammad failed to include Harper’s name on the cover sheet. There were also 10 sheets of signatures for Darrell Williams, a candidate for Ward 4 City Council, that were invalidated for the same reason.

Harper and Williams supported Muhammad by running with him, but Muhammad is not supporting them by failing to file their petitions properly.

Mary Gault, Beacon

At top is Ashley May’s printed name on the nominating petition for Ali Muhammad and at bottom, her signature on her voter record. She filed an affidavit attesting to her intent to endorse Muhammad.

As a new volunteer with the Beacon Democratic Committee, I was dismayed to learn that a Dutchess County judge overruled the Board of Elections commissioners who had ruled Muhammad’s petition invalid.

Simms’ report is flawed in claiming that “each objection was reviewed by two county election commissioners (one Democrat, one Republican).” In fact, both commissioners testified that the Board of Elections failed to review the first page of objections due to a clerical error. Yet even without that first page both commissioners found Muhammad to have come up short. Unfortunately, due to errors, omissions and judicial discretion, the judge did not uphold their findings.

That missing page noted 51 objections. Had the judge allowed review of these objections, Muhammad’s petition would have fallen well short of the 220 signatures, or 5 percent of registered Democrats in Beacon, required to appear on the ballot.

While Simms’ article only spoke to the question of printed names versus signatures, he chose to omit objections to names not registered to vote, names of voters registered to other parties and voters not living in Beacon.

The judge also refused to consider sworn affidavits from voters, one of whom swore he had not placed his printed name on the petition, another swearing that while he did sign a petition, it was not Muhammad who witnessed it. Muhammad attested that he witnessed the signing of all signatures, despite these claims to the contrary by voters.

Christian Campbell, Beacon

The editor responds: Gault, who is the corresponding secretary of the Beacon Democratic Committee, asserts that Harper’s and Williams’ petitions were invalid because only Muhammad’s name appears on the cover sheet of their consolidated petitions. In fact, while Gault made that objection, the BOE did not rule on it. Instead, in the case of Williams, it found that he was not a registered Democrat and invalidated the petition on that alone. It is impossible to say how the commissioners might have ruled on the cover sheet. The names are printed on each page of the petitions.

In the case of Harper’s Democratic petition for Ward 2, the minutes from the board’s review of an objection by former council member Charles Kelly state the commissioners agreed that unspecified “fatal defects” raised by Kelly made the petition invalid. In addition, it noted that one sheet was invalid because the witness lives in Wappinger, not Beacon. We should have noted the petition had already been ruled invalid before the page was tossed and have requested the ruling from the BOE to clarify.

Campbell claims we “chose to omit” facts from our reporting. In fact, Muhammad submitted 298 signatures and many were eliminated for the reasons Campbell states. After a review, the Republican commissioner found that Muhammad had 207 valid signatures and the Democratic commissioner stopped counting after he had invalidated 90. The judge ruled Muhammad needed to show at least 13 of the rulings were incorrect. She overturned the rulings on 15 disputed signatures, 13 of which involved printed versus cursive names.

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