Pelham Examiner

Pelham Examiner

Pelham Examiner

Luft describes how absentee and early mail ballots were handled in Pelham Manor election

Pelham Manor Village Manager and Village Clerk Lindsey Luft submitted this letter to village residents for publication as a letter to the editor.

To the editor:

As your village clerk, I take my role as chief election officer very seriously. Transparency and proper administration of the procedures that have been outlined are of high value to me. As with any operation, the organizer is tasked with being appropriately prepared and ready to handle anything that may arise.

The New York Early Mail Voter Act went into effect Jan. 1, 2024. The general village election cycle was the first to go through this process. The absentee/early mail ballots we utilized were competently prepared as a consolidated ballot as per the Nov. 27, 2023 guidance document issued by the New York State Board of Elections. Our ballot preparation process is that the village clerk provides the content to be populated on the ballot to the Westchester County Board of Elections (WCBOE), and, upon receipt, the WCBOE transposes and provides an electronic proof back to the village clerk to confirm the content is accurate. From my understanding, WCBOE utilizes templates for this process. As I previously shared, the machines we received from the WCBOE were not properly programmed to process the absentee/early mail ballots.

The procedural process that is outlined for counting the absentee/early mail ballots begins toward the end of the polling hours. Election inspectors have a critical role in processing these ballots. We got most of the way through this process before it was evident that the ballots would not be processed by the machines we had on hand. As per our intermunicipal agreement, the Westchester County Board of Elections provided direct technician support the night of the election, during which they realized, and informed me, the machines were not programmed properly and would not be able to be fixed on-site. The village does not have the ability to program the machines.

Upon learning this, I announced for procedures to stop in order to allow me time to work out a plan. From my conversations with the WCBOE technicians present, it was made clear to me the machines needed to be fully reprogrammed. Furthermore, it was brought to my attention that the WCBOE would need to receive my request for reprogramming assistance via email. At that time, I went to my office to write such an email from my computer. As per advice from counsel, I wrote directly to both Westchester County Board of Elections commissioners in the same email. It was confirmed this would be accommodated the following business day.

Once there was a clear plan of action, I made another announcement for everyone present in the polling location. Fortunately, the election inspectors had completed the vast majority of their duties. A few items remained, the election inspectors made their final decisions, and once complete, were subsequently dismissed.

Following this, in the presence of those who remained at the polling location, I carried out the procedures to secure and seal all of the absentee/early mail ballots in order to transfer them to the custody of the Pelham Manor Police Department. There were no absentee/early mail ballots counted on the night of March 19. I provided an update to the community as soon as was practicable.

First thing in the morning, the WCBOE confirmed they were reprogramming the machines. Shortly thereafter, they advised me of the time/location for which we could meet to cast the ballots. I promptly notified the candidates of this information and explained who was authorized to be present. The ballots remained in the custody of the Pelham Manor Police Department until it was time for the packages to be opened and the ballots to be cast through the reprogrammed machines. All parties met and carried out the final procedures for casting the absentee/early mail ballots so authorized by the Pelham Manor election inspectors. I certified the final count and shared it with the public. To confirm, all day-of ballots were accepted by the voting machines as expected. We were able to finalize those numbers the night of the election.

As a whole, procedures were sharply followed. The election inspectors, staff and I carried out our duties meticulously. Conducting an election is an administrative and ministerial act. I would like to reiterate that I do not identify with a political party. I value the perspectives of all individuals and feel as though my work speaks for this.

It is my pleasure to serve each and every one of you.

Lindsey Luft

Village Clerk

4 Penfield Place


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  • M

    Molly BrennanMar 26, 2024 at 6:20 pm

    Certainly this unfortunate disruption of the ballot-counting in a Manor-run election points to the common-sense conclusion. Westchester County should run the Manor elections as they do all other villages in the county. They have the resources and the bipartisan bona fides to make it a seamless process for the future. I agree with Emily Pauley.

  • E

    Emily PauleyMar 22, 2024 at 7:09 am

    I am so glad Pelham Manor has you to run our village. I hope this process shows everyone while you did your best you are only one person. Westchester County has more resources and experience at their disposal to run our election. They would have updated the machines as part of the process before hand. You had no way to know but Westchester County would have. Please give this large job to a bipartisan third party. We all love Pelham Manor but running our election internally is destroying our village cohesiveness.

  • N

    Natali WindMar 21, 2024 at 6:41 pm

    It’s interesting that she neglected to address Mark Cardwell’s concern that “The uncounted ballots are currently in a box being supervised by a police officer—despite the fact that the Police Commissioner is one of the candidates in the election.”