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Cape Vincent Democrats withdraw legal challenge to ballots

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CAPE VINCENT — Democratic candidates for town offices have dropped their legal challenge to 88 absentee ballots that could affect the final results of the Nov. 5 election.

“We just want to do what’s in the best interest of Cape Vincent,” said Alan N. Wood, who is running for town supervisor. “The Cape needs to heal.”

Mr. Wood, along with Dennis W. Pearson and Paul F. Aubertine, who are running for seats on the Town Council, filed a challenge to the ballots with state Supreme Court on Monday against Jefferson County Board of Elections Commissioners Jerry O. Eaton and Babette M. Hall, as well as Town Council candidates Brooks J. Bragdon and Michelle T. Oswald and supervisor candidate Urban C. Hirschey.

The Democrats had asked, among other things, that the Board of Elections not certify any election results until it could determine the validity of the disputed ballots, many of which are believed to have come from seasonal residents who have changed their primary residence to Cape Vincent so they could vote in town elections.

The Democrats primarily favor the development of a wind turbine project in the town, while the Republican candidates generally oppose the project. It is believed that many of the absentee voters also oppose the development of a wind farm, likely meaning the majority of the absentee ballots would fall on the Republicans’ side.

On election night, Mr. Wood was leading the incumbent, Mr. Hirschey, in the supervisor race, 501-426. Election night results showed Mr. Aubertine in the lead in the council race with 542 votes, followed by Mr. Pearson with 497 votes. Incumbents Mr. Bragdon and Ms. Oswald came in third and fourth with 406 and 386 votes, respectively.

According to a statement released by the candidates, filing the legal challenge Monday was necessary to give them more time to review and investigate the ballots, with Monday being the deadline to file an objection.

“After completing their investigation and reviewing the law with legal counsel, the candidates determined the Board of Elections should be allowed to complete the vote count without further delay,” the candidates’ statement said.

The candidates notified Supreme Court on Friday that they are dropping their objection. Judge James P. McClusky on Monday had ordered the Board of Elections to prepare all the necessary records for the canvass of the votes, including the registration records of voters casting paper ballots, absentee applications, poll books and other related documents, and a hearing in the matter had been slated for Tuesday.

Mr. Wood said he will now await the results of the absentee count.

“The fact of the matter is, the people who live in Cape Vincent elected me 501 to 426,” he said. “The year-round residents elected me.”

Ms. Hall, the Democratic election commissioner, said Friday that if the challenge is withdrawn, the board could continue certifying absentee ballots. The board is awaiting confirmation from the Democratic candidates and guidance from County Attorney David J. Paulsen before proceeding with the recanvass, she said. The Republican candidates also have objected to the validity of 11 ballots.

Times staff writer Daniel Flatley contributed to this report.

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