The Monroe, NY 2013 election is complete. As I shared in my Democrats and Republicans Can Work Together blog, and my post about how I felt this year’s voting was meaningful, 2013 was a big year for Monroe’s local elections. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents came together and developed a new political party, the United Monroe party. They did grass roots campaigning, knocking on doors and conducting fund raisers and rallies. They published position and platform mailings, and did whatever else they could to raise awareness of the issues in the town.
A high level summary of issues
The brouhaha started when the current town board purchased a nearly $1M movie theater with no public input or notice. The board provided varying explanations of how the building would be used. People who hadn’t been involved in town meetings or decisions started getting involved. Lawsuits were filed and attorneys hired. The plot thickened, as other issues were uncovered. Attention then turned to the actual board, how they operated, and what could be done to make the board more accountable and transparent. There were three board seats up for re-election, so United Monroe hoped to put new candidates into those seats.
An overview of Monroe’s villages
The voting issue was compounded by the way Monroe is structured. There are three villages that are part of the town: Kiryas Joel, Harriman, and Monroe. The Monroe town board is responsible to serve all of Monroe, which includes the town and the three villages. The village of Kiryas Joel is home to about 20 thousand Chasidic, a sect of Ultra Orthodox Judiasm. The voters of Kiryas Joel typically vote as a bloc, and in general, they will vote in whatever manner they are directed to by their leadership. A huge percentage of that village votes in elections, much higher than in the general populace.
The new United Monroe party believed that the existing town board had been primarily focused on supporting just the village of Kiryas Joel. They did not believe the Board was working for all three villages and the town. Therefore, United Monroe was established to attempt to replace three existing board members who were up for re-election. Their goal was to get a board that supported all residents, not just one village. They worked hard to raise awareness to ensure that ALL parts of the town voted.
So what happened on voting day?
In the village of Kiryas Joel, voters were handed a copy of the ballot as they entered the voting location. The ballot included highlighted names for candidates they were supposed to vote for. Voting went well, with plenty of ballots and no major issues.
In the town and village of Monroe, voting did not go as smoothly. There was a much larger turnout of voters than in a typical local election year. Voting locations ran out of ballots and had to replace them with manual ballots. They also had to use ballots written in Spanish, and ballots with too-small-to-read writing, until the emergency orders of real ballots arrived. In some voting locations, voters waited two hours to make their selections. Some voters left the polls, since they simply couldn’t wait. Late in the day, the voting was just not as efficient as it should have been.
So what happened after voting day?
On Election Day night, no one knew how many manual ballots were used, so the manual and absentee ballots needed to be counted. That count happened last week, and while the results have not been certified by the Board of Elections, they seem to be official enough to show up in our local paper.
The incumbents won another term but not by a landslide. For the hottest contest of town supervisor, the incumbent won with 52% of the vote. United Monroe’s candidate obtained 46% (a small amount went to another incumbent running for the same seat). Based on my calculations and not on any official reports, ~ 62% of estimated registered voters came out to vote. Those results are skewed towards the village of Kiryas Joel, where some folks are wondering if perhaps more than 100% of voters voted. There are still questions on the validity of the voting, but for now, the incumbents will be returning to their offices.
The United Monroe party has vowed to not give up the fight to return fairness and openness to the town of Monroe. There may be further investigations into the voting to ensure there wasn’t any fraud, so perhaps updates will be available at some time in the future.
But for now, I’ll bet there will be a lot more people attending town meetings to voice their opinions. I hope the board now realizes they simply must do what they were elected to do. Their role is to support ALL residents of both the town and all three villages. United Monroe will be watching.