Manorhaven residents say missing ballots may be effort to suppress votes

Manorhaven residents say missing ballots may be effort to suppress votes
Manorhaven's Village Hall. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Multiple Manorhaven residents said they received absentee ballots in the mail without a ballot inside, with some calling it an attempt to suppress votes for the challenging mayoral candidate and his party running mates.

“I would assume that someone didn’t want those ballots to be counted,” a Manorhaven resident of 50 years said, adding that she did not believe it to be an error.

Manorhaven Trustee Jeff Stone ran against Mayor John Popeleski in the village’s June 18 election. Running with Stone under the Manorhaven Residents Party were two newcomers challenging two incumbent trustees for their seats.

Popeleski defeated Stone in the mayoral race with 486 votes, or 58.6% of the votes. Stone received 343 votes.

Deputy Mayor Harry Farina and Trustee Monica Ildefonso ran alongside Popeleski under the Working Families Party. Both were re-elected, garnering nearly 60% of the votes.

Farina received 490 votes, and Ildefonso received 472 votes. Nancy Rozakis and Robert Swerdlow challenged them, each receiving 341 votes.

Stone estimated that about a dozen individuals received these empty absentee ballots in the mail. He said all the individuals he spoke with who received them were supporters of his candidacy.

Although about a dozen absentee votes would not have changed the outcome of the election, Stone said the issue at hand is the integrity of the village’s elections.

“I want to make sure people feel confident in village government,” Stone had previously told Blank Slate Media.

Popeleski said absentee ballots were sent out according to requirements by the Nassau County Board of Elections and were mailed on time.

The mayor chalked up the missing ballots to either “human error” by the deputy clerk who handles the ballots or an issue caused during postal transit, but said he did not know what caused the problem.

Blank Slate Media spoke with four residents who said they received the empty absentee ballots. All asked to remain anonymous, but Blank Slate Media was able to confirm they are residents of Manorhaven.

The four residents said they were supporters of Stone.

The residents said the absentee ballot envelopes they received did not appear to be tampered with and were completely sealed. The only thing out of the ordinary was the absence of a ballot inside, leaving just the return envelope.

“Completely clean envelope, well-sealed and hadn’t been opened before I opened it,” one resident said.

Some residents also said they had not received their ballots until after they had already left for vacation – the reason why multiple were planning to vote absentee.

One resident described opening up her absentee ballot to find there was no ballot inside, but this happened after she returned from vacation since it did not arrive before her departure.

She said her first thought was that it was user error, assuming she was missing information on where to vote since it was her first time voting absentee.

But after asking a neighbor, she said she learned that it wasn’t user error but the absence of a ballot entirely.

Another resident, an elderly woman, said she requested an absentee ballot due to her limited mobility but didn’t receive it in the mail until the day before the election. She said she was shocked to find no ballot inside even when it did arrive.

Even if the ballot was inside, she said it arrived too late for it to be mailed back and received by the village. She opted to vote in person on Election Day and was still able to cast her vote.

Another resident said she requested an absentee ballot because she was planning to be in the city the entire day, but came home early to vote since she did not receive the absentee ballot before leaving.

When she came home, she retrieved her absentee ballot from the mail and found that there was no ballot inside.

When asked whether or not he would be investigating the issue, Popeleski said it would be something the village attorney would look into as the mayor cannot.

Popeleski said he would not ask the attorney to investigate, which is something the mayor can do, because the election was not close enough.

One resident called it a “sinister attempt” to limit the voting for a specific candidate and disappointing to see signs of corruption locally.

“As old as I am, I’ve come to realize that there are a lot of people who will do a lot of things that are inappropriate or even illegal to maintain power and keep power,” one resident said, but added that he couldn’t ascertain whether that was at play here in a local election.

Popeleski said he is not informed about who is being sent ballots. He denounced the finger-pointing at him and his party for allegedly playing a hand in the issue.

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