“A Preserve Ramapo activist and former supervisor candidate argued before a state appeals panel that town officials played political games with a 2014 ward system vote, almost secretly allowing unregistered voters to turn the tide against the change in government representation.
Michael Parietti said he and fellow activist Robert Romanowski “were delighted to have the opportunity to tell this tale of Ramapo to the Appellate Division in Brooklyn and describe to them the double standard we live with every day.”
But Parietti didn’t convince the three judges during his appearance on Sept. 5. The arguments made by Parietti and the town’s attorney, Janice Gittelman, were videotaped.
Despite referendum day confusion about who was eligible to vote in the special election and town officials working against the ward system, an Appellate Division panel on Wednesday supported a lower court judge’s ruling certifying the results.
The panel upheld the decision that Parietti, Romanowski and other ward system supporters “failed to present proof that the alleged irregularities and/or misconduct by the Town in conducting the special election had any impact on the outcome,” leading to the defeat of a ward system and of a proposal to add two more Town Board members.
Parietti said they plan to seek permission from the state’s highest court to file an appeal in a last-ditch effort to decertify the 2014 referendum vote. Parietti, Romanowski and Deborah Seidman-Munitz, operator of a pro-ward system website, Vote6Wards, led the legal fight.
What’s a ward system?
The proposed ward system would have added two more Town Board members through specifically set up voting districts, with only the supervisor running townwide. Under the present system, all five board members run townwide.
Before the vote, the town invoked a seldom used law allowing unregistered voters to cast ballots. Opponents argued the decision was not fully publicized and people at the polls were not trained, and said town officials brought out people to vote against the ward system.
After the referendum Sept. 30, 2014, a count of the machine votes and absentee ballots showed the ward system had been approved by a vote of 14,268 to 13,727. Adding two more board members, for a total of six, won support by 14,224 to 13,790.
However, more than1,850 affidavit ballots from unregistered voters led to the defeat of the ward system, 15,581 to 14,687, and the Town Board expansion,15,648 to 14,644.
Parietti said he does not believe the appellate panel seriously dealt with the legal issues and improprieties they raised in court papers and he made during his oral arguments on Sept. 5.
“We do find the extreme brevity of the court’s decision curious to say the least, as well as the fact that it did not address or discuss the most important legal issues involved, let alone rebut in any way the strong arguments we spelled out in our papers and debated at length during oral arguments,” Parietti said.
The Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, takes cases where a constitutional issue is involved and usually steers clear of unanimous lower court decisions.”
Read the complete Journal News coverage here.
You can view the entire hearing on YouTube here.