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Final Ballots Put Stewart Over Top for Orangetown Supervisor

UPDATED. The six absentee ballots counted Wednesday gave Andy Stewart a two-vote victory in the election for Orangetown Supervisor, but challenger Walter Wettje could still appeal.

The Rockland County Board of Elections counted the six remaining absentee ballots in Orangetown late Wednesday morning, but the race for Orangetown Supervisor may not be over yet.

Of the final six, two were cast for incumbent Democrat Andy Stewart, three for Republican challenger Walter Wettje and one did not vote for Supervisor, giving Stewart a two-vote victory pending a possible appeal.

"I'm very happy that we are ahead by two votes and the election is over," Stewart said. "IT's been a stressful month. I've been really impressed by the board of elections and the court system. I think everybody has done their job well."

Wettje said it isn't over yet as he walked from the conference room in the Rockland Board of Elections offices in New City where the votes were counted. Wettje met briefly with his attorney, Guy Parisi, before leaving and said that they would decide by Thursday if they would file an appeal. 

"It was an interesting race," Wettje said. "It's my first time at this. It's a tough haul, but it's worthwhile. When I first started, not too many people knew who I was. I was the unknown and people know who I am now and that is a good thing.

"We're not sure what we are going to do. We're going to talk about strategy. We will continue to meet today and tomorrow and make a decision by tomorrow whether or not we will go to the next step or we will concede."

The count has Stewart with 6,163 votes to 6,161 for Wettje. 

"I think a lot of people are kicking themselves because they did not vote or didn't do what they could to get a friend to vote," Stewart said. "I think there is a lesson in that. That goes for both sides. Turnout is always not as much as you'd think. Every vote counts and people need to pay close attention."

Rockland Elections Commissioner Louis Babcock said the deadline to certify the results is Dec. 15, but an appeal could take longer than that if one is filed.

The Orangetown Supervisor election met with delays even before both candidates challenged ballots. All votes in Rockland and four other counties were impounded for a week after election day in relation to the election 9th Judicial District Supreme Court Justice election. Both candidates filed petitions as the election went to court in late November, primarily related to absentee ballots. 

Judge Victor J. Alfieri had ruled on most of the petitions before this week began. There were 41 absentee votes that had been counted which Stewart's attorney, Alan Goldston, challenged on the basis of what he argued was a flaw in the absentee ballot application. Alfieri dismissed that petition Tuesday.

There were also 12 remaining absentee ballots that had not been counted which Stewart had challenged. He removed his challenge on one and five Alfieri ruled that five others should be counted, but another six were not to be counted. 

Among those ballots not counted were those from an elderly couple on which the husband had signed the the wife's envelope and the wife had signed the husband's envelope. In another instance, an absentee ballot was returned to a voter to deal with some issue, which he discovered upon returning from out of town on election day, Nov. 5. He mailed it back in, but admitted in court he did not send it until Nov. 6, the day after the deadline. 
Mike December 11, 2013 at 01:59 PM
So can someone at patch get us a summary. How many ballots were declared not valid and which side challenged those ballots. Can we get a breakdown of how the absentee votes went in general. In other words, for the ballots counted who won those totals. I think this goes to the heart of the matter for citizens in this town. We have many citizens who were disenfranchised and we need to know who led that process and how the judge rule on it. I hope Wettje appeals just so we can get more information. Why does this appear fraudulent.
Phil O'Shea December 11, 2013 at 02:03 PM
Congratulations to Andy Stewart. I heard him on WRCR this morning - he is a gracious and intelligent man! Orangetown is fortunate to have him continue as its Supervisor. I could not support Walter Wettje for supervisor. I don't think he has the temperament to be a suitable supervisor. I understand that during the court sessions several of our Rockland County legislators - Murphy and Maroney, and councilman Troy were in attendance. You would think the legislators could be taking care of the problems at the county level. Perhaps they will do us a favor and decide to retire so we can get some fresh thinking into that body to work with Day. I'm sure Wettje will appeal especially if the six votes that were disallowed were for him but it is doubtful if such an appeal will win given the judge allowed to stand 40 plus votes that Stewart wanted to have thrown out. I hope Valentine continues as a moderating force to insure that the republicans work with Stewart for the next 2 years. He is a voice of reason and has the same gracious style that i think Stewart brings to the board. Hopefully Morr will join with Valentine as another voice of reason because I fear that Diviny and Troy are not capable of the teamwork that is necessary for a harmonious relationship on our town board. Let's now move on. Orangetown has plenty of problems to be solved in the next two years.
Mike December 11, 2013 at 02:12 PM
"Given the judge allowed to stand 40 plus votes" is a bold statement. I thought all voters had an expectation their votes would "stand" and they would not be disenfranchised. The question I have is we went from an election that had Wettje winning by 36 votes on Election Day, to him losing by 2 votes over a month later. We are all entitled to the truth, especially voters who lost the most precious thing we have in a democracy- their vote. It's not a matter of Stewart or Wettje , but a matter of the process and full open transparency. All citizens should be outraged today no matter who you voted for!
Walter December 11, 2013 at 02:32 PM
Congratulations Mr. Stewart, the right man won in the end! Now get back to the business of getting our town out of the dark ages. End the cronyism that has plagued this town for decades. Keep our taxes low!! Enough with the spending! The Republican Ol' Boys Club has taken another defeat!! And by the way continue to support our Police Chief as he continues to keep our town safe and continues to fight those from within that work to impede his authority. Thankfully the Wedjie got picked off!
Kevin Barry December 11, 2013 at 02:57 PM
Walter, Troy, Diviny, Day, Deane and Simon won!! How can you say The Republican ol' boys club has taken another defeat. Stewart won by two votes and that may change on appeal. He was the incumbent! it never should have been that close. Snap out of it!! You and Phil O'Shea should be reminded that Stewart is the only Democrat to win in O'Town, and by the skin of his teeth if it holds up. Mr Wettje, great job!!! If he wins God knows you made him earn it.
Walter December 11, 2013 at 03:05 PM
The defeat is not in Stewarts win Kevin. It is in the once mighty sword that Repubs in the town once wielded. Who would have ever thought that a republican in this town could lose by two votes?
Michael N. Hull December 11, 2013 at 03:06 PM
Mike: I am a Republican resident of Clarkstown so I am somewhat neutral about what goes on in Orangetown. I was in court for several days on the Orangetown ballot issue and I was also in court for a similar absentee ballot hearing associated with Clarkstown. The absentee ballot process is fraught with problems and unless the law is vigorously upheld the whole basis of our democracy can be overturned. In Clarkstown we had the situation of people from one party registering in another party apparently to take over that party and have the original candidate of the party displaced with absentee balloting. In Orangetown I think the judge has interpreted the law rigorously. For example if your name is A and your brother's name is B and B signs A's document while A's signs B's document what does the judge do? He could rule that it was an error and if they had signed the correct documents their votes would have been the same but then this opens the door to a very slippery slope legally. The fact is that if you sign a document in which you are stating that you are the person named in the document and you are not, then the document is not legal. That is one example of what I saw. My observation of what went on in Orangetown is that the process was legal and fair although some voters did make mistakes that meant their ballots were invalidated and so their intended vote can not be counted. In Clarkstown things went a bit further which is why there will be an investigation. I would bet Wettje will appeal the six votes that were thrown out for the types of reason I have given above but if he does then Stewart will also appeal the 40 plus votes that the judge allowed in and which benefitted Wettje (the BOE put out a document that did not have the correct statutory language - Stewart could well win this appeal as this has been appealed before in another case and the ballots were thrown out). As to Wettje's appeal on the 6 of these last 12 votes thrown out, the Appellate Court will (in my opinion) rule that the judge was correct to throw them out. The bottom line is that if the majority of voters who lived in Orangetown (60%) had gone to the polls there probably would have been a clear and decisive result but they either didn't care to vote or couldn't be bothered. Democracy is messy but it is the only system that we have.
Kevin Barry December 11, 2013 at 03:25 PM
They still wield their mighty sword. the towns elected officials are the same as they were a year ago.
Walter December 11, 2013 at 03:32 PM
keep telling yourself that kevin!
Robert Guttman December 11, 2013 at 04:11 PM
I agree with Michael Hull that the absentee ballot system is susceptible to problems. Unlike most residents I used to work overseas and often had recourse to absentee ballots, so I know fist-hand how bad the system can be. Sometimes I didn't receive my ballot until AFTER the election had been held, and a few times I never received it at all. Once, while stationed at a U.S. military base overseas, I had the opportunity to get an absentee ballot from the base headquarters. However, since I was an officer, I was offered the option of collecting all the absentee ballots for my entire crew. Since, as an officer, and had access to the crew list, if I were a really corrupt individual I could easily have cast votes for every member of my crew!
Mike December 11, 2013 at 05:06 PM
Thank you Michael for the information you provided which is much more than what we have received from this site or lohud. I have no problem with a judge making sure that there was no fraud in the voting process. I just think his/her decisions as well as the challengers assertions should be open, transparent and consistent. You appear to indicate that the process in Orangetown was different than Clarkstown. That is not a good thing. Yes, democracy is messy , but let's make sure we all see and look at the mess together.
Rockland Resident December 11, 2013 at 07:08 PM
What wonderful news! Walt Wettje lost. He is an obnoxious man who would be divisive to Orangetown. I have seen this guy in action and he is rude and a bully. Now if we can only stop him from running the Rockland referee program into the ground.
Walter December 11, 2013 at 08:08 PM
and yes a very bad ref at that
Pat December 11, 2013 at 10:41 PM
Wettje's divisive? What has Stewart done? After 2 years in office the incumbent won re-election by 3 votes. Sounds pretty divided to me.
Robert Guttman December 12, 2013 at 10:36 AM
"What has Stewart done? " Among other things Andy Stewart managed to get the new shopping center and hotel built on the site of the old Orangeburg Pipe Plant, a project that had been stalled by the Orangetown government for at least 10 years. It is the first major business to be established in Orangetown since Lowes opened about a decade ago. For that accomplishment alone alone he deserved to be re-elected.
Walter December 12, 2013 at 10:41 AM
This town is stagnant! Stewart sis get that deal done. Lets hope for more growth.
Pat December 12, 2013 at 11:50 AM
Stewart was responsible for putting in Stop and Shop? You better do some more research on that one. The fact that the area was asbestos contaminated from the pipe factory may of had something to do with the delay or the fact that the developer put the project on the shelf in 2006 because of the economy might of added some time also. Please don't let facts get in the way of your accolades for Stewart's achievements. My taxes still went up this year, even with the addition of those businesses to the tax rolls, so a big whoop to Stewart for building Stop and Shop. Anyway, my point was that Stewart did nothing to end the divisiveness and evidenced by the vote tally.
Salvation December 12, 2013 at 01:05 PM
And who got the electrical contract for that
hobbit pratt December 12, 2013 at 01:10 PM
Well done O-town. You chose the right man for the job. Now can someone please get me out of Walter's house. I have been stuck under a mountain of wee wee pads in his living room for a month.

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