Ruling gives Sausville win in Malta supervisor race
One-vote victory could be appealed
BALLSTON SPA Paul Sausville has won re-election as Malta town supervisor by a single vote following a court decision Thursday invalidating two votes for his opponent.
Sausville was declared the winner of the Nov. 5 election after a state Supreme Court judge ruled that two absentee ballot votes for his challenger, Democrat Cynthia Young, shouldn’t be counted.
Judge Robert Chauvin’s decision on the contested ballots gave Sausville, a Republican four-term incumbent, the edge in the final 1,582-1,581 tally.
Had Chauvin allowed the ballots to be counted, Young would have won an upset victory by one vote.
Young can appeal, but the court’s decision resolves, for now, an election that has been too close to call — and it determines who will lead the town that is home to GlobalFoundries next year.
The election was closely watched because of Malta’s prominence in the region’s emerging high-tech economy and because Sausville — a sometimes-controversial figure who fended off a Republican primary challenge from Town Board member Peter Klotz in September — is in line to chair the county Board of Supervisors next year.
Young, who attended the court proceeding, said she was disappointed by the decision. Her lawyer said an appeal to the Third Department Appellate Division is possible.
“I feel very strongly that these voters were disenfranchised,” Young told reporters. “They clearly intended to vote for me.”
Chauvin ruled, however, that because the two voters wrote the words “no vote” on the back of the disputed ballots next to one of the six propositions, their votes wouldn’t be counted. In one instance, the voter also initialled the words. The fronts of these two ballots were clearly marked with votes for Young, however.
Election law is clear that “the entire ballot is void if the voter ‘makes any mark thereon other than a cross X mark or a check V mark in a voting square,’ ” Chauvin wrote in his decision.
Sausville’s attorney, James Walsh of Ballston Spa, argued that the entire ballots were invalid as a matter of law because of the words that were written on them.
The decision ends — unless there is an appeal — two weeks of uncertainty about who will be town supervisor in January.
In what would have been an upset in a generally Republican town, Young led Sausville by 13 votes based on machine ballot counts on election night. A count of absentee and military ballots last week narrowed her lead to four votes, but after 21 out of 23 previously contested absentees were opened and counted Wednesday, Sausville had taken a one-vote lead. That left only the two ballots on which the voter had chosen Young in dispute.
Chauvin heard arguments on whether to count those two remaining ballots on Wednesday and issued his ruling Thursday afternoon.
“They should not be counted because there are marks made by the voter. He was just following the law,” Walsh said after the decision.
Chauvin declined to consider an argument by Kathleen O’Keefe of Greene County, Young’s lawyer, that absentee paper ballot voters are treated differently from those who use a paper ballot at a polling place. At a polling place, O’Keefe contended, a voter who makes a mistake or changes his mind can get a new ballot — but someone voting absentee can’t.
“We’ll think about what our next step is, if any,” O’Keefe said after the ruling.
Sausville, who was not in court Thursday, said later that it was a long campaign and what he heard from voters is that residents are worried about the ways in which Malta is growing, with new housing and additional traffic attributed to GlobalFoundries.
“People are still worried about change, worried about quality of life, worried about traffic,” he said.