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UPDATED Judge keeps ballots sealed in Bethlehem supervisor primary

A state Supreme Court judge handed down a decision Tuesday, Oct. 6, that will keep sealed 11 absentee ballots cast in the September primary for the Working Families Party line in the race for Bethlehem town supervisor.

The decision leaves Councilman Sam Messina with 11 votes and incumbent Supervisor Jack Cunningham, who staged a write-in campaign for the line, with five. Cunningham said he would appeal the ruling and seek to have the ballots in question counted.

Messina filed a lawsuit against Cunningham on Friday, Sept. 25, alleging that 12 voters who registered with the Working Families Party on the eve of the cutoff to vote in the primary election did not properly verify their identities, and thus the absentee ballots they submitted for the September election should be invalidated.

Judge Kimberly O'Connor found that argument without merit, but also said that the Board of Elections did not have the authority to issue the absentee ballots because the ballot applications were signed before the voters were registered.

A review of the eleven absentee ballot applications in evidence show that they were all executed prior to August 20, 2009, the date the applications were delivered to and filed with the BOEit would have been impossible for these voters to have believed that, at the time they executed their absentee ballot applications, they were already registered to vote, the decision reads.

"I'm so pleased with that because the right thing happened here," said Messina in regard to the decision. "I look at that as a clear indication that [Democratic Election Commissioner] Mr. Clyne and Mr. Cunningham tried to manipulate the process to take over the smaller Working Families Party."

"We will continue to fight Mr. Messina's legal maneuvering in our effort to ensure that every voter has an opportunity to have their voice heard through the ballot process," said Cunningham in a statement. "I feel strongly that this election should not be decided by the courts but rather by the voters."

Democrat Cunningham will also appear on the Independence Party line. Messina"a registered Independent"will appear on the Republican and Conservative lines.

For more on this story, check back to www.spotlightnews.com, or read the Oct. 14 edition of The Spotlight.

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