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Fobare seeks apology, accountability and assurances

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CANTON — William L. Fobare is still considering whether to seek a legal remedy to his District 9 St. Lawrence County legislative race being left off some ballots but wants more answers from the Board of Elections.

“The Board of Elections should be out with a statement apologizing to those voters,” he said. “I want a full explanation of exactly what happened.”

Mr. Fobare also wondered about accountability for the mistake and how the Board of Elections could avoid similar mistakes in the future.

Mr. Fobare, a Republican, lost the legislative race Tuesday to Democratic incumbent Stephen M. Putman by a vote of 623-408. Although the outcome would have remained the same, the tally would have been different if 291 potential voters had the race on their ballots. Ninety-five of those voters showed up at the polls. There were five people who had the race on their ballots who should not have.

The numbers might have been even more different, said Mr. Fobare, who talked to at least one couple who voted separately. When the wife told her husband the legislative race was not on the ballot, he did not bother going to the polls, Mr. Fobare said.

Regardless, the outcome is not the point, but the fact that voters were disenfranchised, he said.

“We all sympathize with the situation,” county Republican Election Commissioner Thomas A. Nichols said. “We do everything we can. We want to make sure people vote.”

The mistake was a result of the Board of Legislators redistricting in 2012 in response to population changes in the most recent census. The county also consolidated election districts for efficiency and to save money.

The election district changes went into effect in 2012 while the change in the lines of legislative districts will not happen until 2014, when all legislative seats are up for election.

Mr. Putman, an incumbent and former Brasher Falls Central School superintendent, resigned from the board this year for retirement purposes. Although he was reappointed to the board, his temporary departure meant his legislative seat was on the ballot this year for a one-year term.

The problem was between the election district lines and the change in the legislative district.

“There was no error on the writing of ballots,” Mr. Nichols said. “The position of the line about who was eligible to vote was in question.”

For the future, Mr. Nichols said, officials should recognize the danger of consolidating election districts when legislative changes are pending.

Restoring the faith of voters in the electoral system is what matters and will be a determinant in whether to file a petition in state Supreme Court, Mr. Fobare said.

“I’m talking with several voters and getting a sense of how they feel,” he said. “It’s a very, very sad situation.”

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