State Board of Elections tosses nominating petitions in House race

Section: Main,  Page: A3

Date: Thursday, March 26, 2009

ALBANY -- Libertarian candidate Eric Sundwall gave up his fight Wednesday for a spot on the ballot in the race to fill Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's vacant seat in Congress.

"We are dismayed that the people of the 20th Congressional District will not have the opportunity to vote for Eric Sundwall due to a technicality that hinges on what town or city the voter or witness lives in as opposed to their community of residence," said Richard Cooper, Sundwall's campaign manager.

The state Board of Elections ruled unanimously Sundwall should be removed from the ballot because 3,786 of the nominating signatures he turned in were invalid. Sundwall collected 6,730 signatures. He needed 3,500 to put his name on the ballot; the ruling left him 556 short.

Two Saratoga County residents -- Laurie Kelly Sickles of Ballston Spa, a Republican, and Donald Neddo of Waterford, a Conservative -- objected to more than 6,000 of Sundwall's signatures. A candidate in the race or anyone registered to vote in the district may challenge a candidate's nominating petitions.

Hearing officers for the board dismissed most of the signatures on technical issues. Many voters wrote their mailing address but not the town in which they physically live. Others crossed out information on the form, but did not initial the corrections. Some were not registered voters.

The state notified the county election boards to remove Sundwall's name from the ballot, but it is likely too late to issue new absentee ballots. Tuesday was the last day to apply for an absentee ballot by mail, and ballots must be postmarked by Monday.

Votes for Sundwall will be counted as void votes.

Commissioner Evelyn Aquila voted to throw Sundwall off the ballot, but she said it is time to change election law.

"I've always felt if you receive mail at the address (used on the petition) it should be good enough for us," Aquila said. "I will vote the way I'm supposed to, but it is time to correct this."

Despite the commissioners' ruling, the Sundwall campaign still had a chance in the courts. Lawyers for all parties presented their cases to state Supreme Court Justice James Brands in Poughkeepsie on Wednesday; his decision would have outweighed the board. But Sundwall conceded before the judge ruled.

On his campaign blog, he compared the battle to the tale of Sisyphus, the Greek king sentenced by the gods to roll a rock up a hill every day, only to watch it roll back down again.

Despite the objectors' party affiliations, a spokesman for the Tedisco campaign said Republican candidate Jim Tedisco had nothing to do with trying to have Sundwall thrown off the ballot.

"Jim welcomed Mr. Sundwall to the race. His removal is a question for the board," spokesman Adam Kramer said.

A spokesman for the Democrat in the race, Scott Murphy, said: "I enjoyed meeting and debating Eric Sundwall last week. We had a thoughtful and positive discussion on the economy. It appears he was kicked off on a technicality and that's unfortunate."

Also Wednesday, the Board of Elections resolved a number of issues related to absentee ballots for voters serving in the military of living overseas.

The U.S. Department of Justice sought to ensure that overseas and military voters would receive 30 days to receive and return ballots, and brought suit against the state Board of Elections on Tuesday.

In an executive session Wednesday afternoon, Board of Elections officials addressed the Department of Justice's concerns, agreeing to extend the deadline for absentee ballots to April 13, which may delay final certification of the election results.

Leigh Hornbeck can be reached at 454-5352 or by e-mail at Irene Jay Liu contributed to this report.


Vote is Tuesday

Voting in the special election in the 20th Congressional District is set from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, March 31. The district is comprised of 10 counties, To see if you vote in the 20th district, go to https://