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Former Spa City commission member denied request to view charter ballots

Former Spa City commission member denied request to view charter ballots

Bob Turner may join an Essex County lawsuit about whether copies of electronic voting ballot images are public records
Former Spa City commission member denied request to view charter ballots
Saratoga Charter Review Commission member Bob Turner is seen at his office at Skidmore College on Nov. 10.
Photographer: Erica Miller

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Former Charter Review Commission member Bob Turner's second attempt to view the ballots from November's charter reform referendum has been blocked. 

A letter to Turner from the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors states, "Your request for these documents is duplicative of your previous requests, which have been fully settled. The County of Saratoga will neither entertain nor respond to repeated requests for the same documents if the documents at issue have previously been addressed and the matter has not been appealed to the furthest extent permissible under the law."

The Nov. 7 charter referendum came down to around 50 votes, with 4,202 votes cast in favor of changing the city's government and 4,154 against. 

Absentee ballots were counted one week later and reversed the results to 4,458 against and 4,448 in favor. 

Turner submitted the FOIL request following an April 12 court ruling in the case of Kosmider vs. Whitney in the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court in Essex County, which questioned whether copies of electronic voting ballot images are public records. 

Supreme Court Justice Stanley Pritzker ruled that, "Once electronic ballot images have been preserved in accordance with the procedures set forth in Election Law ... there is no statutory impediment to disclosure, and they may be obtained through a FOIL request."

The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors letter to Turner said a Notice of Appeal filed by Elections Commissioner Allison McGahay of Essex County means "automatic stay provisions are in effect and apply to this administrative decision as the Court of Appeals construes election law."

Turner said he would likely meet with an attorney by the end of the week to discuss filing a legal document with the state Court of Appeals to join the Kosmider lawsuit. 

"The Republican and Democratic county election commissioners can't even bother to articulate some sort of rationale and reason that the ballots shouldn't be open to the public," Turner said of Republican Roger Schiera and Democrat William Fruci. 

"It's not about the charter at all anymore; it's about transparency and promoting the integrity of the electoral process."

Turner said that, despite the denial of his FOIL request, he's not giving up. 

"I'm a strong believer in clean government and transparency, and I'm not going to let a couple of local political appointees deny the public what's theirs," he said. "I just want to see the ballots.

"Show us the ballots." 

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