Litigation: State Supreme Court Decides Judicial Ballot & Voting Machines Case

This blog will also publish timely election law reports from the state courts.

Thanks to Jaspan Schlesinger attorney Anthony Bagnuola, we are presenting a recent case from Long Island, Hensley v. Matthews, et al. (Suffolk Co. Index No. 20602/2014).

In this case, the Suffolk County Board of Elections invited candidates to inspect the voting machines for the November 4 general election between Oct. 20 and Oct. 24, 2014.  In the letter, candidates were told that sample ballots would be available for review at that time.  However, when Paul Hensley, a candidate for District Court Judge, appeared on Oct. 20 and objected to the form of the ballot, the Board failed to take any action.  Mr. Hensley’s objection, and the subsequent lawsuit, arose from the fact that blank spaces were  placed between candidates’ names (District Court Judge is a “pick any 3” race).  The result, plaintiffs argued, was that the configuration of the candidates’ names created the optical impression that the first two candidates were running unopposed (indeed, they each appeared alone in the first and second columns) and that the third judgeship should be selected by voters from a collection of five candidates crammed into a third and fourth columns.

An Order to Show Cause was fled seeking relief under Article 7, challenging the form of the ballot.  The Order was signed by Acting Supreme Court Justice Behar, and made returnable before Justice Peter Mayer on October 23, 2014.  However, due to the nature of the race, Justice Mayer and his Suffolk County colleagues recused themselves, and the matter was transferred to Justice Mary Smith in Westchester County.  The case proceeded at a rapid pace over approximately 48 hours and resulted in the attached decision.  Suffolk_order (1)

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