Readers Write: Good neighbors don’t throw out their neighbors’ votes

Readers Write: Good neighbors don’t throw out their neighbors’ votes

Since last week’s library board election, my friends and neighbors and I have been eagerly—anxiously—awaiting the results. The deadline for proxy (absentee) ballots was Oct. 28; the in-person vote was on the 31st. By now, the ballots should have been counted.

Instead, a pair of the candidates—Jessica Hughes and Christina Rusu—have done everything in their power to delay or even halt the process.

Last week, when they first stopped the count, Ms. Hughes released a statement saying she is “fighting against voter fraud”—a shocking allegation for a local election, where the voters are our neighbors and friends. Days later, she and Ms. Rusu would drag the library into court, filing a lawsuit that is a chaotic mix of irrelevant complaints and wild, unfounded accusations.

According to the lawsuit, at least 78 ballots have not been counted to date.

Of these, the largest group are 26 late-arriving ballots that may be disqualified due to when they were received.

The lawsuit notes, however, that several of these have postmarks “from October 26–28”—that is, they were mailed by the Oct. 28 deadline. What if your mother cast a ballot on time, but it happened to arrive late? Is that her fault? Should her vote be thrown away?

The next largest group are 24 ballots described in the lawsuit as having a “Handwritten time stamp.” This timestamp has nothing to do with the voter. It’s just a rubber stamp the library uses when processing the ballots upon receipt.

If the library wrote the date on my father’s ballot using a pen instead of a rubber stamp, should his vote go in the trash? Should literally dozens of our neighbors be disenfranchised for this reason?

Then there’s a group of ballots with various defects. One voter wrote the wrong date. Another voter forgot to sign the envelope. Yet another, perhaps unsure of how to print the ballot request (a PDF), printed it out as a screenshot. If your grandmother used the wrong file format when she printed her proxy application—this is voter fraud?

These are simple, understandable errors made by our brothers, sisters, neighbors and friends. If we were talking about thousands and thousands of ballots, perhaps it would be too much to expect that all these ballots could be cured.

But we know these people. They live in our neighborhoods; their children go to school with our children. Wouldn’t it be the decent, neighborly thing to do, simply to call these people up and make sure we’ve got their votes right?

I’ll tell you what is neither decent nor neighborly: to insist that votes belonging to our loved ones, our friends and family, should be tossed in the trash because someone forgot to sign an envelope.

To darkly allege that liars and thieves walk among us, that our local library board election was tainted with “voter fraud,” because someone accidentally wrote the wrong date. To take the local library to court, accusing anyone and everyone of ineptitude and malfeasance, rather than trusting in our community library’s normal, customary vote-counting procedures.

Just count the votes. All of them. There is currently a 28-vote gap between Ms. Hughes and her opponent, with dozens of ballots still unopened. We don’t know yet who won this race, but regardless of the outcome, Ms. Hughes’ opponent is prepared to accept the community’s decision. It’s what any good neighbor would do.

Daniel Pitt Stoller
Great Neck

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