COVID-19 exposure delays vote count in Great Neck Library election

COVID-19 exposure delays vote count in Great Neck Library election
The counting of challenged ballots in the Great Neck Library election will resume Monday, officials announced. (Photo by Robert Pelaez)

An inspector at the Nassau County Board of Elections was exposed to coronavirus, further delaying the count of votes challenged by a pair of trustee candidates in the Great Neck Library election until Monday, candidate Rory Lancman said.

The counting of votes challenged by trustee candidates Jessica Hughes and Christina Rusu, who also filed a legal complaint against the library and their opponents, was set to resume Nov. 21, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 exposure.

The lawsuit, which cited concerns about the legitimacy of absentee ballots that have not yet been counted, resulted in the filing of a stipulation of discontinuance last week. The stipulation says that a bipartisan team of qualified officers from the Nassau County Board of Elections will resume the counting of votes.

Hughes is running against incumbent board President Liman Mimi Hu, while Rusu is running agains 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 has 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.

Hu, Lancman and Schader, in a joint statement, expressed gratitude for the support they have received in an effort to continue the counting of challenged votes.

“We are grateful for all the support and encouragement we have received from so many people of all walks of life from New Hyde Park to Kings Point, and every community in between,” the statement said.

Efforts to reach Hughes, Rusu or their attorney, John Ciampoli, of Messina Perillo and Hill LLP, for comment were unavailing.

The lawsuit also advocated for analyzing the library’s method for issuing, reviewing, distributing, processing and preserving absentee ballots to ensure it was proper.

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.

Court documents 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.”

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

“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.”

Hughes and Rusu said they try 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,” their 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 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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