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Bungalow colony voters stricken from rolls; BOE received 132 absentee ballots

By Fritz Mayer
September 30, 2016

A group of voters who registered in 2015 to vote in the Town of Thompson and who gave addresses of bungalow colonies as their Sullivan County homes have been deemed not eligible to vote in the county by Judge Michael McGuire. There were 132 such voters in total, and McGuire’s decision, which was handed down in August of this year, applies to 126 of those registrant voters.

Beyond listing bungalow colonies, which were closed or boarded up for the season, as their local homes, most all of the challenged voters also asked for absentee ballots for them to be sent to a post office box in Thompsonville rather than sent to their homes in New York City where many live most of the time. The post office box is associated with the manager and the owner of the Raleigh Hotel.

A lawsuit challenging the voters was brought by Scott Mace, who ran a successful re-election campaign for a seat on the Thompson Town Council in November 2015. Of the 132 challenged voters, 126 did not appear, or have an attorney appear on their behalf, to oppose their challenges. Only six of the 132 chose to oppose the challenge to their registrations, and they are represented by attorney Henri Shawn. Mace is represented by attorneys David Holland and Gail Rubenfeld. Litigation regarding those six registrations is ongoing.

It is well-established that people who own second homes in New York State are allowed to vote in their second home district under many circumstances, but the question about whether a person may use as a voting address a locked or boarded up bungalow colony with no ownership stake is not clearly settled.

McGuire wrote in his decision, "as the courts of this state have repeatedly explained, the Election law ‘does not preclude a person from having two residences and choosing one for election purposes provided he or she has legitimate, significant and continuing attachments’ to that residence"… "The crucial [factor in the] determination [of whether a particular residence complies] with the requirements of the Election law is that the individual must manifest an intent, coupled with physical presence ‘without any aura of sham.’’'

He said there was no evidence presented that the bungalow colonies listed as residences were not either “unoccupied, shuttered or abandoned just days after the election”, and citing numerous precedents he ruled that the 131 names be stricken from the registration roles.

The resolution of the six remaining voters has yet to be determined.