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137th Assembly Candidate Orsi Files Complaint Over Election Petitions

Patti Singer
pattisinger@minorityreporter.net

A candidate in the 137th Assembly District has filed a complaint with the Monroe County District Attorney and the New York state Board of Elections, alleging election fraud related to how the Monroe County Board of Elections handled the signature petitions of an opponent.

Silvano Orsi of Gates is claiming that the county board inappropriately corrected mistakes in the petition for Ernest Flagler.

Orsi is claiming that after he filed a general objection to Flagler’s petition, the Democratic side of the county Board of Elections had the document rescanned to show page numbers that appeared to be missing on the original PDF that he had been supplied.

In his complaint, Orsi cited election law that requires any amended or updated document to have a new cover page with date and time of the update. He claimed a new cover page did not accompany the rescanned version.

Orsi filed a complaint with the state Board of Elections on March 27 and with the district attorney on April 1.

Orsi and Flagler are among five Democratic candidates competing for the seat held by long-time Assemblyman David Gantt, who retired.

The others are Ann Lewis, Demond Meeks and Natalie Sheppard. The primary is scheduled for June 23.

Lewis and Meeks did not have their petitions challenged on the Democratic line.

Orsi maintained that the board did not follow protocol. He said it has to notify a candidate of any problems with a petition and have the candidate make changes.

Orsi said he was notified of the rescan by the Republican office in the Board of Elections.

Orsi also cited issues with signatures in his challenge of Flagler’s petitions. Ruth Brooks Ward, who has challenged petitions in the past, challenged Orsi and Sheppard. Ward witnessed petitions for Flagler, according to Flagler’s petitions filed with the Board of Elections.

Ward said she challenged Orsi on signatures that were on petitions for more than one candidate and signatures of people who didn’t live in district. She said she challenged Sheppard on similar grounds.

As of April 1, it was not clear when the county Board of Elections would rule on the challenges.

In the past, candidates have gone to court over challenges to their petitions.

Under New York law, candidates have to collect valid signatures to be on the ballot. The number varies by the office being sought. This year, because of COVID-19, the number was decreased.

The Board of Elections posts detailed instructions about the petition process. The board looks over the petitions when they are submitted. A registered voter may challenge a petition within a specific time frame.

Flagler said that challenges were part of the process. He said that when he first ran for school board, he was knocked off the ballot after his petitions were challenged.

Lashana Boose, Democratic Acting Commissioner, said she had not received official notification of Orsi’s complaint.

The process will play out and time — and the Monroe County Board of Elections — will determine where the complaints end up.