Manor ballot form is wrong: ‘Village has not agreed to honor its own ballot instructions’

Editor’s note: This letter was submitted Monday night.

To the editor:

The Village of Pelham Manor election is tomorrow (Tuesday). Over 250 people requested absentee ballots. Ballot forms sent out by the village state that ballots postmarked by March 15 and received by March 23 will count.

The form is wrong.

In fact, Pelham Manor requires that absentee ballots must be received by March 16 to count.

This serious error on the absentee ballot form came to light Friday, when a voter mentioned to a member of the Pelham Democratic Party that the voter’s absentee ballot would be mailed on Monday, as instructed, since that allowed a full week for it to arrive.

Democratic Committee members immediately reviewed an absentee ballot, confirmed the error and contacted the village about this problem. We noted that having provided ballots with erroneous information, the village must honor the instructions it gave and accept absentee ballots postmarked by March 15 and received by March 23.  We reached out repeatedly to discuss solutions. As of the time I write this, however, the village has not agreed to honor its own ballot instructions.

Instead, hours before the deadline, Manor officials began individually calling people who had requested absentee ballots.

This isn’t a misunderstanding among buddies. It’s a consequential mistake on a legal document in a municipal election. “Calling around” mere hours before the deadline, reaching whichever voters happen to answer their phones, significantly underestimates the remedy needed. It reflects a troublingly casual approach to governance.

Here’s what should have happened: Manor officials running this election should have reviewed the absentee ballot before they sent it out and noticed that it conflicts with Manor election procedure. That’s especially true since the Democratic team noticed and quietly mentioned the need for correcting a similar mistake on the absentee ballot application form.

Once ballots were distributed with incorrect instructions, the village board should have publicly explained the mistake, apologized to voters and announced an extension to the deadline so that no voters relying on written voting instructions are disenfranchised. They should have cautioned voters that a final election result might not be available tomorrow, due entirely to the village’s error. People know that mistakes happen. When every attempt is made to acknowledge a mistake and fix it, prioritizing an accurate, fair election result, voters are sympathetic.

Instead: nothing.

Westchester County assures us that the village may choose to accept ballots until March 23, as indicated on the forms, and we have relayed this to Manor officials. Incredibly, their response was to ask us for details on election law. Why aren’t they researching this themselves? What is their plan to fix their mistake? Where is their urgency to make sure every vote counts?

More importantly: Why aren’t you hearing about this from your elected officials?  The incumbents have insisted for months that the Manor is professionally well run; their competent experience is the central plank in their platform. They have argued that, regardless of what frustrated voters believe, they are completely transparent.

Here’s where transparency is crucial. I’m not seeing it.

Marin Zielinski

60 1st Street

Chairwoman, Town of Pelham Democratic Committee