Katonah NY Real Estate | Judge Invalidates Michaelis Petition for Independence Party Line – Bedford-Katonah, NY Patch

Update, 3:15 p.m.

Peter Michaelis’ name cannot appear as a write-in candidate on the Independence Party ballot line on Sept. 13, primary day, or Nov. 8, the general election, a New York State Supreme Court judge ruled today.

In his decision, the Hon. John La Cava said that neither Dean Travalino, a wheelchair-bound notary public who had collected signatures with the assistance of Lewisboro Town Supervisor Charles Duffy, nor John Pappalardo, a Lewisboro resident who also collected signatures on Michaelis’ behalf, had formally placed “any one of the combined 49 signers of the petitions sheets that they had notarized under oath. Nor did either of the notaries ask any of the signers to swear that the information provided was true,” as required by election law.

The invalidation of those signatures leaves Michaelis about 30 signatures short for his bid the Independence Party line in the upcoming elections.

Among the court’s findings was the fact that Travalino remained in the car (see first story, below) while Duffy met with voters at their front doors, explained why they were asking for signatures and told them Travalino was in the car to witness and notarize their signature. Travalino told the court that he felt “each signatory was ‘sworn’ by Duffy in his presence” with the explanations given to voters and their indications of understanding the process. The court also found that Pappalardo thoroughly explained the petition process to voters but did not swear them in.

If Duffy had asked voters to approach the car to be sworn by Travalino, things may have turned out differently, La Cava’s opinion states, noting there was no “compelling reason to fashion an exception due to Mr. Travalino’s disability.”

Harckham said he was pleased with the ruling.

“The Court’s ruling today…is a victory for legitimate and fair elections,” he said in a press statement. “It is particularly shameful that Peter Michaelis would attempt to spin this into a disability disenfranchisement issue because one of the notaries involved is disabled. It is Mr. Michaelis who threatened to disenfranchise the Independence Party voters who awarded the official party endorsement to my campaign and who have a right to know that all candidates are playing by the rules.”

For his part, Michaelis didn’t comment on how he thought the decision would affect his campaign, but issued a statement saying that Harckham was afraid to face voters at the ballot box.

“Instead of hiring a private investigator and a high-priced attorney to use up taxpayer-paid court resources, Harckham’s time would have been better spent finding solutions to cut wasteful spending in county government.  Harckham’s constituents need to be served tax relief, not subpoenas.”


First story:

Westchester County Judge John LaCava is expected to rule today on a ballot line case in the run for the Westchester County legislative seat for District 2.

County Legislator Peter Harckham said that his lawyers were investigating “several discrepancies” in a petition submitted by Peter Michaelis required for voters to have the opportunity to write his name in as a candidate on the Independence Party line on primary day, Sept. 13.

Harckham, a Democrat and the incumbent, has been endorsed by the Independence Party. Michaelis, endorsed by the Republican and Conservative Parties, obtained enough signatures to force a primary for the Independence Party—if the judge rules that the signatures are valid.

“There were indications that proper procedures were not followed when the signatures were collected,” Harckham told Patch. “If the individual collecting the signatures is not a member of the Independence Party, you need to have a notary have signers take an oath swearing to their identities.”

Dean Travalino, 57, a Lewisboro resident an a notary public, was one of several individuals subpoenaed by the Harckham campaign. He took the stand in county court Tuesday afternoon to defend the manner with which he collected signatures in the field.

Travalino, who is wheelchair-bound, said Lewisboro Supervisor Charles Duffy assisted him in collecting signatures by going to residents’ doors while he remained in the car.

“It seemed like a reasonable accommodation,” he said, noting that Duffy asked residents to raise their hand and verify their identity and knowledge about what they were signing. “There are a lot of stairs leading up to Lewisboro homes,” adding that his and Duffy’s testimony lasted several hours.

For his part, Harckham said Travalino and Duffy were not the only individuals questioned. “There were several notaries involved—it’s not just about Dean Travalino— it’s the law.”

There are 1,576 registered members of the Independence Party in the 2nd legislative district, according to the county board of elections. A minimum of 79 signatures were required for the opportunity to ballot on the Independence Line.

Yesterday afternoon, the Michaelis campaign released a statement on the matter.

“Harckham is denying Lewisboro Independence voters an opportunity to express their opinion in a primary and now has brought an action to deny a disabled resident the right to fully participate in the election process. Petition challenges are to be expected, but I find the grounds for this challenge to be despicable, at best,” said Duffy.

“Harckham is afraid to let voters have a choice at the ballot box and is subverting democracy in order to keep his office,” said Michaelis.”

Check back with Patch for updates.

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