hamptons local events, express news group

Story - News

Sep 9, 2009 3:11 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach trustee, blogger spar over residency issues

Sep 9, 2009 3:11 PM

A blogger and village resident who made an unsuccessful run for Westhampton Beach trustee two years ago on Thursday night challenged a sitting board member on how he plans to alert voters when their village residency is being questioned.

Village Board member Hank Tucker said that in light of what happened during the June 19 village election, when some voters said they felt embarrassed and outraged that their eligibility to vote was challenged at the last minute, that the village should change the way it notifies voters and educate them about their rights.

“To me, if that’s the only possible way we can accept it, well, so be it and fine,” Mr. Tucker said during Thursday night’s board meeting. “[But] if there is something we can do about it, a procedure we can change as a village, if we have the authority, we should change the process.”

Dean Speir, the author of the “On The Beach Blog,” lost his bid for trustee in 2007 when he was narrowly defeated by Mr. Tucker’s running mate in this year’s election, trustee Joan Levan. In June, Mr. Speir challenged the eligibility of 64 voters minutes before the polls opened at Village Hall.

During the board’s July 6 organizational meeting, Frank Wright, a Westhampton Beach resident whose voting eligibility was challenged, said he felt that there should be a time requirement so that individuals could “clear their name” once they are challenged and before they head to the polls. Mr. Tucker said he agreed with Mr. Wright, and that the board will take a look at state election law and do whatever is in its power to avoid a repeat occurrence, according to the minutes of that meeting.

According to state law, Mr. Speir does have the right to challenge the residency of voters on the day of an election. On Thursday night, Mr. Speir said he wanted to know what Mr. Tucker proposed to do to change the system if the village is bound by state law.

“What about state law do you think, as a village trustee in Westhampton, you can do something about?” Mr. Speir asked Mr. Tucker. “If you really wanted to do that, like you wanted to do two months ago, you can do something about it in the village newsletter.”

Mr. Tucker said the village might send out a special newsletter, adding that the way Mr. Speir challenged the voters was “offensive.”

“Next year, are you going to challenge 550 people because you think the election is not going to go the way you wanted it to go?” Mr. Tucker, who won reelection in June, asked Mr. Speir.

Mr. Tucker added that there should be a better process to notify those voters whose residencies are being challenged.

“We have to fix the process and make it better for our residents,” he said. “It’s not about looking to see who did what wrong or how or why.”

Westhampton Beach Village attorney Bo Bishop explained that no residents were unfairly stripped of their right to vote in the June election, regardless of whether or not they felt embarrassed by the process.

“I think it’s important to follow the election law,” Mr. Bishop said. “No one was disenfranchised.”

The brief verbal spar between Mr. Tucker and Mr. Speir came after the blogger asked during the public comment period of Thursday’s meeting if the village had received a response from the New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials and the New York State Board of Election. The response was supposed to answer whether or not the village followed proper procedures on Election Day.

Mr. Bishop said he had just received a letter from the conference on August 28 and had not yet had a chance to share it with the board. He sent letters to the conference and New York State BOE on July 21.

The letter from the New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials stated that both the procedure that Mr. Speir followed to challenge voters was legal and the process in which Village Clerk Kathy McGinnis addressed the challenged voters was legal. The same letter also stated that people with multiple homes cannot switch their voter registration twice in one year.

However, state election law stipulates that a person with more than one home can change his or her residency residence up to two times a year, according to a representative of the New York State BOE.

Mr. Bishop pointed out that the registration provision is not entirely clear in the letter sent from the New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials, and that he is still waiting to hear back from the New York State BOE.

Mr. Speir challenged the eligibility of 64 voters in this year’s election on the grounds that they did not live in Westhampton Beach. Mayor Conrad Teller also submitted the names of 17 people, including some names that were already on Mr. Speir’s list, to the village clerk prior to the opening of the polls on June 19.

1  |  2  >>  

You've read 1 of 7 free articles this month.

Already a subscriber? Sign in

As a resident I want state laws to be obeyed and as an elected offical Hank has an obligation to enforce and obey them also. Dean Speir knows the rules and has always played fair. Mr. Speir's watchful eye is a credit to the Village.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Sep 4, 09 5:45 PM
1 member liked this comment
Speir was just worried that the election wasn't going in the direction he wanted it to. Hank is absolutely right, it was extremely distasteful to pull out this list on the day of the election. He's just trying to stir the pot abd have something to blog about!
By Jessica713 (20), Easy Quogue on Sep 4, 09 6:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
It goes without saying that it is critical that the integrity of elections be protected. That means people who are not qualified to vote must be prevented from casting illegal ballots, and that the process of casting a ballot must not become unnecessarily burdened.

It appears that there is good reason to question whether, in the past, unqualified voters cast ballots in a closely contested election and whether those ballots may have determined the outcome of a previous election. That ...more
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Sep 4, 09 11:50 PM
1 member liked this comment
What seems to be overlooked in all of this is that while NYCOM is a recognized authority in the structures and functions of Village Government, they are NOT an authority expert in election law and should not be regarded as definitive on the topic of the election conduct during the last Village election. Why Mr. Bishop chose NYCOM instead of the Board of Election, the Attorney General’s Office or all three to be queried was probably one of the topics discussed at one of the many “secret” strategy ...more
By Resident (42), Westhampton Beach on Sep 10, 09 8:36 AM
The blogger who is the subject of this article has demonstrated how good and valuable tools can be put to bad use. In a recent post on his blog entitled, Six Corners' Stonewall, he has attacked and insulted a public official.

His complaint is that the Village Clerk, whom he refers to as playing "the rule book clown" did not immediately comply with his demand made under FOIL for a letter written by the New York Conference of Mayors (NYCOM) and sent to the Village Attorney.

Before ...more
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Sep 10, 09 8:56 AM
2 members liked this comment
The reason the challenge is on election day, is because that is when the person is attempting to vote...it is really right then that he has to be a qualified voter....this seems a lot fairer way to do things then what the East Hampton Republican Party did many years ago, threatening to turn New Yorkers with Rent Controlled apartments in to their landlords for being registered to vote in East Hampton. (they won that election and proceeded to rape East Hampton...those politically connected republicans ...more
By evananda (4), East Hampton on Sep 11, 09 9:41 PM
Your conjecture, presented as fact, that "The demeanor of Bishop and Speir at the September 3rd Trustees Meeting confirms that Speir had already seen the NYCOM reply. Nice catch on the lob Bishop… who do you clowns think you’re kidding? Elected officials that were not only not privy to access to the document but also knowledge that it had been received prior to this circus should be outraged," is not supported by the videotape of that meeting: http://www.westhamptonbeach.org/archives/2009/trustees-meeting-videos/village-meeting-video-9-3-09.php.

In ...more
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Sep 15, 09 1:58 PM
What are you folks afraid of?

Conspiracy? Speir is attempting to get the village government to deal with an issue that keeps coming up over the years -- people with two homes who vote in two places (purposely or not). They mistakenly (being kind here) think paying property taxes here and for a home elsewhere entitles them to vote in two places! Nope. Well established State law restricts voting to one person, one vote.

Inquiring of the Conference of Mayor and the State Board ...more
By JimmyKBond (156), Hampton Bays on Sep 20, 09 7:55 AM