Libertarian Eric Sundwall of Niverville won’t appear on the ballot in Tuesday’s special election for Congress.
The state Board of Elections commissioners voted Wednesday to boot the third-party candidate off the ballot, although his name is listed on absentee ballots that already were mailed.
Meeting in Albany, commissioners voted unanimously to accept a report from hearing officers that invalidated more than half of Sundwall’s petition signatures.
“As counsel has reported to us, we are bound to apply the election law as it is written,” said co-chairman Douglas Kellner.
The hearing officers declared 3,786 signatures invalid, meaning Sundwall had only 2,944 accepted signatures. He needed 3,500 names to stay on the ballot.
Many of the signatures were ruled invalid because signers wrote the town where they receive mail rather than the town where they vote, Board of Elections officials acknowledged.
“We followed the strict language of the statute that required that the witnesses state their correct town,” said Paul Collins, one of the hearing officers.
That state election law technicality has aggravated petition collectors for years, including one of the commissioners.
Commissioner Evelyn Aquila voted to strike down the invalid signatures but said the state law should be changed.
“I always felt that if someone could receive their mail at an address, why wasn’t that good enough for us?” she said before the vote, but she added she would vote on the side of the law.
Sundwall spokesman John Norris said both Democratic candidate Scott Murphy and Republican James Tedisco would likely get votes from people who would have otherwise voted for Sundwall.
“He would certainly pull from both,” Norris said.
Board of Elections spokesman John Conklin said Wednesday afternoon that Sundwall decided not to appeal the decision in court, although he could have done so.
But Sundwall on Wednesday lamented that a state Supreme Court hearing in Poughkeepsie about the petitions kept him from challenging the Board of Elections ruling.
“They’re trying to hold us in court even though their case in the Board of Elections is won,” he said.
He said a hearing scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in Poughkeepsie was postponed until after the board made its decision at noon.
Sundwall said the three people who filed the suit, including the Dutchess County Conservative Party chairwoman, want to bring criminal proceedings against Sundwall in connection with signatures they said were obtained fraudulently.
“Not only did they knock us down, but they’re driving their boot into our head now,” Sundwall said.
The attorney representing the petitioners could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Board of Elections also agreed Wednesday to give overseas military service members more time to return absentee ballots.
Absentee ballots will be accepted until April 13, Conklin said.
In other developments in the race to replace Kirsten Gillibrand, who was appointed to the U.S. Senate, President Barack Obama publicly endorsed fellow Democrat Murphy.
The special election is widely viewed as an early test of Obama’s popularity. An e-mail from Obama went out to his supporters to encourage them to volunteer for Murphy in the final days of the campaign.
“I could not be more honored and humbled to have the president’s support,” Murphy said in a statement.
“Scott has the kind of experience and background we desperately need right now in Washington,” Obama wrote in an e-mail. “He’s created jobs by building and growing small businesses while bringing people together to address difficult challenges. He supports the economic recovery plan we’ve put in place, and I know we can count on him as an ally for change.”
Josh Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for Tedisco’s campaign, declined to comment on the impact Obama’s endorsement might have on the campaign. Instead, he repeated criticism of Murphy’s support for the federal economic stimulus package, which Tedisco opposes.
The race is the first in the nation to fill a congressional seat since Obama was elected. For Democrats, it’s a chance to hold on to what had been a staunchly Republican district and solidify their wins in elections last fall.
Democrat Gillibrand was in her second term when she was appointed to the Senate in January to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton.
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Categories: Schenectady County