Photo from Napierski's campaign Facebook page
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GUILDERLAND — A federal judge ruled the town’s Democratic Party may hold its caucus to elect a nominee for the open judge position, but not without some modifications made to the process and to Tawasentha Park.
The caucus was challenged by town Judge Christine Napierski in federal court claiming, among other shortcomings, the venue was not compliant with the American with Disabilities Act and therefore disenfranchised a number of Democrats who could not make it to the park to cast a vote.
Napierski, who was appointed by the Democrats in April to replace former Judge Richard Sherwood, who was convicted of felonies for bilking millions from his law practice clients, claims the process is rigged to benefit her opponent Bryan Clenehan, an attorney who serves on the county Legislature.
The town Democrats hold a caucus, where all registered party members show up at a given time and raise their hand to vote for a candidate, rather than a primary, where there election is held by the county Board of Elections and votes are cast by secret ballot.
“The judge will allow it to proceed but is requiring the committee and the town to make accommodations to make it accessible under the American with Disabilities Act,” said Andy Holland, an attorney for Napierski.
Those accomodations, according to a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Glenn Suddaby, include:
-A parking lot at the pavilion dedicated to handicapped voters.
-If someone cannot get out of their car someone has to go get their vote from the car.
-Monitors will be stationed throughout the park to make sure things go smoothly and everyone who wants to get in and vote can do so.
-There has to be sufficient parking for everyone who wants to get in and vote
-The bathroom will be made handicapped accessible and there will be a handicapped accessible portable bathroom.
Other parties in town use the primary system which, Holland said, is a more fair way to elect candidates.
“Rather than allow a nine hour slot at a conveniently located polling place they want to cram everyone into one location, which is not ADA accessible, and have a vote by a show of hands,” he said. “The judge is saying if you want to have your caucus in the park, you have to make it accessible to anyone who wants to be there.”
Other deficiencies in the caucus system include not allowing for absentee ballots or proxies – which disenfranchise those unable to make it to the park to cast a vote and those serving overseas who want to participate in the democratic process back home.
There are some 9,200 Democrats in Guilderalnd and the pavilion holds 200. While all 9,200 are not expected to show up, Holland said in 2015, when Dan Egan challenged County Executive Dan McCoy, there were 1,700 Guilderland Democrats who showed up to vote in the primary.
It’s not clear how long town Democrats have used the caucus system.
The caucus is slated to start at 6 p.m.