The outcome of the three village elections on June 21 went as expected – all eight incumbents in Kings Point, Lake Success and the Village of Great Neck won re-election.
But the route to victory in Kings Point was not as expected.
Two write-in candidates mounted a last-minute challenge in Kings Point that helped draw hundreds of residents to Village Hall to cast their ballots – a number of whom were unsure of how to cast a write-in vote. The polls had to stay open late to accommodate all the voters.
Local businessman Curtis Katz, who had papered the village with anti-incumbent material, said he intends to contest election results in the Nassau County Supreme Court because of confusion surrounding the handling of write-in ballots. Katz had previously been critical of trustees for suing to stop Chabad of Great Neck from demolishing a local house to build a temple and school.
Up for re-election in the Village of Kings Point was seven-term incumbent Pete Aaron and Ron Horowitz, who was appointed March 2011 to fill the remainder of the term vacated by former trustee Richard Sokolov.
“I think it was a hard fought election and everyone is a winner,” Horowitz said. “The village is a winner.”
Incumbents were challenged late in the election by write-in candidate Mojgan Sasson, a real estate attorney, and cardiologist David Schifter. Both were prompted to run by a 9.8 percent hike in village taxes, approved by trustees March 31.
Village of Kings Point Mayor Michael Kalnick previously said costs to the village rose 13 percent due to state mandates such as health insurance and pensions, but trustees were able to cut spending without reducing services.
Kings Point Civic Association President Marsha Rotman had stoked opposition to the tax hike through e-mail blasts and community meetings. Rotman also encouraged community participation in village government.
The final vote was Aaron 222, Horowitz 226, Sasson 58, Schifter 29. Disqualified votes totaled 130.
If every vote had been spelled correctly and otherwise qualified, poll workers said a write-in candidate could have received 217 votes.
“In my mind, there is no doubt the court will set aside this whole charade and will allow a vote in a proper fashion,” Katz said. “I think there are multiple grounds to contest the election, so we are going to do it.”
Polls were open 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. Early afternoon saw a steady stream of voters, with many asking poll workers how to vote for a write-in candidate.
Kings Point used two old-fashioned mechanical voting booths. To vote for a write-in candidate, voters had to lift a panel with one hand and with the other write with a pencil attached to the booth. Spaces provided were one larger box and one smaller box.
After the polls closed, Kings Point Village Attorney Stephen Limmer said votes were disqualified when more than one name was printed in the same box. Earlier that day he expressed uncertainty about whether multiple names in one box would count.
When voters asked poll workers how to vote for write-in candidates, the Great Neck News heard poll workers instruct them to write in the box, not write one name in each box.
Limmer said a set of written instructions read aloud was the only assistance poll workers were allowed to offer. Asked about why poll workers were neglecting to tell people to write one name in each box, he said, “I don’t know. I have never used a write-in. The county gives us these machines.”
A poll worker who asked not to be identified said he is not legally allowed to provide voters with enough assistance.
“You can’t go in, you can’t point,” he said. “A lot of the immigrants, they might have been here for 10 years but they don’t know how to vote.”
At the corner of Kings Point Road and Sunset Road a sign told passersby, “Stop our vanishing money. Vote Mojgan Sasson, David Schifter.” Taking credit for the sign was Katz.
For the benefit of potential voters, two men standing beside the sign handed out flyers with Sasson and Schifter’s names spelled correctly. One carried a packet that included an article about Chabad of Great Neck.
A little after 8:00 p.m., Audis, BMWs, and Mercedes lined Sunset Road from corner to corner – overflow from the Kings Point Village Hall parking lot. Inside, approximately 50 people stood online, patiently waiting to vote.
At 9 p.m. the doors to Village Hall were locked, with nearly 60 people still waiting for their turn to vote. Voting booths were finally closed a little before 10 p.m.
During his decades-long tenure, Kalnick said he has seen this kind of turnout before.
“Yes, but it’s been a long time,” he said.
Some residents said they were treated rudely by poll workers, like Parvin, a 30-year resident of Kings Point who asked her last name be withheld.
“They were very nasty in there,” she said. “I asked them nicely, ‘can you help me out.’ She said. ‘No, I can’t help you. There is a box up there. Write in it.’ This is not the way to treat us.”
More than one resident got stuck in a voting booth that was either broken or not being operated properly.
After a man who asked not to be named got stuck, a Village of Kings Point staff member said in front of poll workers and multiple waiting voters, “They’re not pulling the handle. What is wrong with them? That’s the second time that happened.”
The man said a poll worker tried multiple times to pull the handle so he could leave the booth.
“It is an affluent community,” said Trustee David Harounian. “The Persians who live here are all educated. They are all demanding.”
Kalnick said in Kings Point the petitioning deadline to have candidate names added to the ballot was mid-May.
Asked why she did not go through the process, Sasson said, “I’m a lawyer and I can’t figure it out.”
In the Village of Great Neck, up for re-election was Mayor Ralph Kreitzman, who received 129 votes. Trustees Jeffrey Bass and Mitchell Beckerman received 120 and 119 votes respectively.
Write-in candidates Richard Deem and Coleen Barry each received one vote.
In the Village of Lake Success, trustees Adam Hoffman, Gene Kaplan, and David Milner received 90, 112, and 108 votes respectively.
Votes for write-in candidates were Robert Rho 29, Meri Berger 1, Sang Lee 1, Michael Weinbaum 1. Trustee Fred Handsman, who was not up for election, received one vote. None were disqualified.