By LOHR McKINSTRY
---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — Challenges to designating petitions in Essex County have forced two candidates off party lines in this year’s elections.
A third challenge was rejected by the Essex County Board of Elections, leaving Fred Balzac still running as a Green Party candidate for Jay Town Council.
In the two that were sustained, the Board of Elections invalidated Democratic Party petitions filed for John Thompson to run for Willsboro Town Council and Green Party petitions submitted by Rosamond Lincoln-Day for Jay town justice.
Thompson’s petitions were declared invalid because of notarization and witness errors, officials said, and Lincoln-Day’s because the witness did not fill in the line for number of signatures collected.
ONE WAS ENOUGH
In Balzac’s case, the objection was that one petition did not list the number of signatures — that one was upheld, invalidating four names. But he still had one valid signature, which was enough to qualify for Green Party candidacy in Jay.
The Green Party challenges were filed by Republican Party member Harold Akey, while the Democratic petition challenge came from Willsboro Republican Committee Chair Win Belanger.
Essex County Republican Party Chair Ronald Jackson said the County Committee wasn’t connected to or directing the challenges, which came from individual party members.
“It’s a decision you personally have to make whether you want to challenge or not.”
Belanger said before he files a challenge, he consults with Republican candidates for the post to make sure they agree.
“It is not about the person, but only if the New York State Board of Elections guidelines and procedures are followed. The main reason for filing designating petitions with a required number of signatures is to show that enough voters in your particular party want you to run against another individual in an opposing party.”
He said because Thompson is not a registered Democrat, there were even more rules to be followed. Thompson’s party is currently listed as “blank” in election rolls, meaning he has not selected a party.
“I filed the objection because the petition did not appear to adhere to the New York state law, and the required number of signatures became void when the guidelines were applied,” Belanger explained.
Thompson did not return calls asking if he plans to run independent.
Akey is the secretary of the Jay Republican Party Committee.
“Part of our duties and responsibilities are to look over petitions filed by any of the other candidates,” he said. “I would expect them to review our petitions as well.”
Akey said Lincoln-Day contacted him after he filed his challenges and thanked him for pointing out the inaccuracies.
None of those challenged are incumbents’ petitions were challenged.
Board of Elections Republican Commissioner Allison McGahay and Acting Democratic Commissioner Holly Rollins acted on the petition challenges. Both had to agree for them to be upheld.
On Aug. 5, Mark Whitney of Schroon was named the new county Democratic election commissioner by the County Board of Supervisors, replacing Robert Pell deChame of Ticonderoga, who is moving from the area.
Rollins, the Democratic deputy commissioner, served as acting commissioner while the post was vacant.
Lincoln-Day, who has lived in Upper Jay for 24 years, said she is currently circulating independent petitions for the Jay justice post.
“This is my first time running for office. I’m looking forward to the election.”
Balzac said he and Lincoln-Day turned in their petitions together and are both circulating independent petitions using the Tax Fairness Party name. Those are due Aug. 20 at the Board of Elections.
“(The challengers) were certainly within their rights to review our petitions,” Balzac said. “I did make an error on my petition. We missed the little slot where you fill in the number of signatures on the page.”
He said he and Lincoln-Day wanted to run as Green Party candidates because they feel it represents a new approach to politics.
“They went to a lot of effort to get candidates off the ballot. It sends a signal it’s politics as usual, a political game. We’re running to give people a choice. It seems they don’t want to have a debate.”
Balzac said he and Lincoln-Day plan to sponsor a “meet the candidates” night in Jay when it gets closer to the election.
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