Editor’s Note: The following is an opinion column submitted by Irene Stein, chair of the Tompkins County Democratic Committee.
To submit guest columns, contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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To the Editor:
November 3rd is Election Day. Voters in the 2nd and 4th County Legislative Districts will also be offered the opportunity to vote in a Special Election for County Legislators at the same time.
There has been much confusing and sometimes misleading information that has been circulated in the media and by word of mouth. I would like to better explain the process of filling vacancy in the County Legislature.
We are governed by the NYS Board of Elections and the County Charter in regard to such vacancies. Election Law has been in place for many decades. The rules for filling vacancies in the County Legislature have been part of the County Charter since 2003. The two resignations that occurred on September 16th are the fourth and fifth such resignations to occur since 2003.
The Tompkins County Charter states that if such a vacancy shall occur after August 15 but before September 20 of any year, such vacancy shall be filled at the next general election. New York State Election Law states that a party nomination of a candidate for election to fill a vacancy in an elective office required to be filled at the next general election, occurring after seven days before the last day for circulating designating petitions and before September 20, shall be made by a majority vote of a quorum of the members of a county committee in the political subdivision in which such vacancy is to be filled.
Therefore, according to the Law, there cannot be a primary. Candidates who do not receive Party endorsement may choose to circulate petitions and run on an Independent line.
We followed these requirements without exception. Members of the County Committee in the Legislative Districts did meet, hear from candidates, and make endorsements within the time requirements of the law. The short window of time was unfortunate, but we had no legal ability to change the time requirements.
The County Committee cannot tell candidates when to resign. These are personal decisions. The day after the announcements of resignations were made, the Democratic Committee sent out a media release reiterating the vacancies and asking anyone wanting further information to contact the Chair. Information was also available on the County Board of Elections website.
I hope I have made the process clearer, and I am happy to answer any further questions at 266-7579.
— Irene Stein, Chair, Tompkins County Democratic Committee
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