Great Neck residents want library votes counted now

Great Neck residents want library votes counted now
Some Great Neck residents advocated for votes from the Oct. 31 trustee election to be counted immediately. (Photo by Robert Pelaez)

Some 20 individuals gathered outside the main building of the Great Neck Library on Bayview Avenue Sunday, advocating for challenged votes from the Oct. 31 election to be counted.

Trustee candidates Jessica Hughes and Christina Rusu filed a legal complaint against the library and their opponents, citing concerns about the legitimacy of absentee ballots that have not yet been counted on Nov. 7.

Thomaston resident Sabine Margolis, who organized the rally outside the main building and an online petition advocating for votes to be counted immediately, said others have shared their concerns about the divisive state the peninsula is in and that the lawsuit, which furthers that narrative, should be withdrawn by the candidates

“I feel that the lawsuit should be retracted,” Margolis said. “I think the candidates who started this should probably apologize to the public for having started this and then let’s all have a reconciliation party.”

Hughes is running against incumbent board President Liman Mimi Hu, while Rusu is running against Rory Lancman and Karen Hirsch-Romero for another seat on the board. Sara Khodadadian is running against Kim Schader for an expiring seat on the library’s nominating committee.

Both seats on the board have four-year terms and the committee seat is a three-year term. 

Hughes and Rusu previously filed objections to halt the count of 37 proxy ballots, according to Hu and Lancman. A total of 24 of the objected proxy votes were sent by individuals with East Asian or South Asian surnames, Lancman said. The counting of the votes is frozen until a court hearing scheduled for Wednesday.

The library’s method for issuing, reviewing, distributing, processing and preserving absentee ballots should be analyzed to ensure it was proper, according to the complaint.

Hughes and Rusu issued a joint statement regarding the complaint, saying that they are paying for this out of their own funds and not using library funds. The two also said they launched the complaint to ensure election rules are being enforced and consistently applied.

“The rules of any election should be strictly enforced in order to avoid disenfranchisement of voters,” the statement said. “By seeking to have an unbiased review of the voting procedures conducted in this election we are seeking to protect voters and ensure that the democratic process was followed.”

More than 3,000 in-person votes were tallied at the election machines on Election Day from 10 a.m.- 10 p.m. while more than 330 proxy votes were submitted to the library, according to court documents. They said the machines’ results showed that Hughes led Hu by 250 votes, Rusu led Lancman by more than 150 votes and Khodadadian led Kim Schader by more than 190 votes.

Lancman and Hu, in a statement, said the approximate 300 proxy ballots that were counted as of Nov. 2 resulted in Lancman leading by 22 votes, Hu’s deficit being reduced to 28 votes and Schader’s deficit reduced to 18 votes.

“This lawsuit is a slap in the face to voters, library users, taxpayers, and the library’s professional staff.” Lancman and Hu said. “It is an extension of the vitriolic, disrespectful, scorched earth campaign which has been waged both in this election and, truth be told, against our civic institutions.”

Lancman told Blank Slate Media that the slate of candidates who filed the objections is attempting to prevent the votes from being counted. Their actions, he said, reflect the efforts of those trying to stop the vote count during the 2020 presidential election.

“These folks are mirrors of Trump in so many ways, including how they’re handling the election results,” Lancman said. “We’re seeing that here…another example of Trumpism in Great Neck. They want to block the counting of the perfectly legitimate and well-known process of mail-in ballots.”

“If the legitimate ballots are counted, I’ll win and Mimi and Kim will have made up the difference,” Lancman said.

Hughes and Rusu said they strive to make a positive difference throughout the Great Neck community and wanted to ensure that objections raised in previous elections were addressed.

“Application of the rules should not depend on who asserts the objection; the point is that when rules are not strictly followed, the process breaks down and voters are impacted,” the two said.

They also said none of the challenges made were based on racial or ethnic grounds.

“Both sides have challenged the proxy ballots,” the statement said. “All challenges were applied in a consistent manner that had nothing to do with voter names or personal information. Allegations of racial or ethnic discrimination in the challenges are unseemly at best and defamatory at worst.”

The challenges made by the two included ballots that had non-original signatures or no signature at all, incorrect dates and handwritten or lacking time stamps, according to court documents.

The race has been reflective of the national culture wars, centered on banning or restricting books, primarily related to LGBTQ.

Hu said the placement of certain books is at the discretion of library professionals, touted the importance of “intellectual freedom” and said she is against banning books.

Hughes said the question did not center around censorship but rather promoting “divisive and exclusionary” content. Library officials, she said, should respond to parental input so they can best serve their community.

Rusu said coming from a communist country in Romania gave her an insight into what censorship is and said she does not believe in banning books.

Lancman, a former state assemblyman and New York City councilman, said he is running to oppose a national trend to pull books from library shelves for political reasons. He also said banning books has “no place” in Great Neck and that no library should be restricting content to individuals because it may make them feel uncomfortable.

The library district stretches from the Great Neck peninsula to North New Hyde Park and is comprised of the Main Library on Bayview Avenue along with the Lakeville, Parkville and Station branches.

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  1. The math doesn’t make sense. If Hu was trailing by 250 votes Lacman was trailing by 150 and Schader by 190 votes (total of 590 votes) with only 300 votes left to count how could Hu be trailing by 28 Lacman ahead by 22 and Schader trailing by 18. That would require 566 votes that went all for HU Lacman and Schader. This is either magic or corruption by Hu Lacman and Schader

  2. The Library by Laws State
    100-20: Censorship
    The Board opposes censorship of all kinds and reaffirms its commitment to offering library materials representing all points of view.
    ‘Parental input’ outside the home it’s censorship.

    Furthermore it impedes on the Library Bill of rights:

    100-70: Library Bill of Rights
    The Great Neck Library subscribes to the American Library Association policy which affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.
    i. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.
    ii. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
    iii. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
    iv. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.
    v. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.
    vi. Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use


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