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Monroe County Democrats Want Jackie Ortiz as Election Commissioner

Patti Singer

The Monroe County Democratic Committee ended several months of uncertainty over who would represent the party at the Monroe County Board of Elections.

Committee members voted to recommend Jackie Ortiz, currently an at-large City Council member, to be the Democratic Commissioner.

The full Monroe County Legislature will have to vote on the recommendation, and that is expected to happen in August.

While not binding on the legislature, the recommendation of Ortiz finally brings clarity to a process that had caused division in the party and contributed to criticism of how the Board of Elections handled some difficulties in the recent primary. There was no deputy commissioner on the Democratic side, and at times the office was short-staffed.

The Board of Elections has commissioners on the Republican and Democratic sides. The Democratic position became vacant in March when Colleen Anderson resigned.

LaShana Boose became acting Democratic commissioner.

The Democrats were unable to come up with a process to select a permanent commissioner, and the situation ended up in court. Figuring out how to convene the party was complicated by COVID-19 and restrictions against large gatherings.

The party ultimately proposed a drive-through election, which was held July 25 in Genesee Valley Park.

Boose took herself out of the running after Ortiz announced her intentions for the position.

“Now more than ever, I feel that it is imperative that Black and Brown people work together to lift each other up,” she wrote in a news release. “That’s why after learning that another woman of color was seeking to be our Elections Commissioner, I have decided that I want to support Ms. Ortiz and use my experience in service of her and the (b)oard’s success.

“This year’s General Election demands that we put our own agendas aside for the good of the community. That is why I am withdrawing my candidacy to serve as the permanent Democratic BOE Commissioner.”

Votes for commissioner are weighted based on a formula that takes into consideration where the Democratic committee member resides.

The voting weight for Ortiz was 27,838. The voting weight for Maureen Dauphine was 3,440.70. For Andra Mitchell-Harlee, the voting weight was 672.50.

The Board of Elections was criticized in particular when some voters at the Baden Street site said they did not receive the proper ballots. Several of those voters filed a lawsuit.

Democratic leadership in the County Legislature defended the election process and said that few elections go off without any hitch. They said COVID-19 and demand for absentee ballots complicated this year’s primary.

Republican Lisa Nicolay also was in her first election as commissioner.

In her statement, Boose wrote that the experience “has provided me with knowledge and skills that will continue to serve Monroe County well, and help us ensure that our rights are protected and that every vote is counted in November.

“I look forward to the opportunity to work with our next Commissioner, and for our community to see what a new generation of leadership — importantly, one that is Black, Brown and (f)(b)emale — will do to represent our Democratic values.”

Attempts to reach Ortiz for comment were not successful.

Upon Ortiz’s approval by the legislature, City Council will have to appoint someone to finish her term.

On July 29, City Council released the process to fill the anticipated vacancy:

  • Pursuant to Section 5-4 of the City Charter, the Council has 30 days to fill the vacancy. Should no one be selected within that timeframe, the appointment is that of the City Council President.
  • A candidate for the office of Councilmember at Large may live anywhere within the boundaries of the City of Rochester, and must meet necessary qualifications set forth in Section 5-2 of the City Charter. Any person seeking the position of Councilmember at Large must currently reside within the City of Rochester, and have lived in the City for at least 2 continuous years.
  • Section 5-4 of the City Charter requires that the remaining Councilmembers from the same party as the person vacating the office nominate a replacement who shall be appointed by a majority vote of the remaining members of the Council. Since all City Council seats are currently held by members of the Democratic Party, all members will be able to take part in the nomination and appointment process. If the appointment is not made by the Council within 30 days of Councilmember Ortiz’s resignation, then President Loretta Scott must appoint a Democrat to the position. The newly named Councilmember at Large would hold this seat until the end of 2021, which completes the current term of office.

Upon the official vacancy of the office of Councilmember at Large, the Council will provide a more detailed process as to how interested candidates may apply for this position.