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Absentee ballots overturn race results in multiple elections

Candidates challenge vote counts through the courts

HARLEM VALLEY — With the Tuesday, Nov. 2, General Elections more than two weeks in the rearview mirror, as of Friday, Nov. 19, candidate Brad Rebillard (REP, Amenia Strong-AS) has now risen from the rank of “Also Rans” and will be taking a seat on the Amenia Town Board, thanks to the recently counted and verified absentee ballots.

Candidates in the towns of Stanford and Washington were meanwhile awaiting judicial results on contested ballots, which may be decided this week.

The razor-close elections and resulting changes are, according to both Dutchess County Board of Elections (BOE) Commissioners Erik Haight (R) and Hannah Black (D), are examples of “why every vote counts.”

Noting 3,600 absentee votes were cast in Dutchess County this year, Haight said of potential voters who think voting doesn’t matter that “they couldn’t be more wrong.” That much is evident in the races that now hinge on the votes cast through the mail.

“Every single vote counts,” said Haight on Nov. 19, as the results trickled in. “Especially in local years.”

Black agreed with her Republican counterpart.

“It’s amazing what absentee ballots bring in,” she said.

Town of Amenia

In the Amenia election for the two four-year term seats on the Town Board, Rebillard, who originally tallied 345 votes after the unofficial results were released by the BOE the evening of Nov. 2, ended up with 386 votes after the absentees were counted. He now joins Leo Blackman (DEM), who won the top spot with a vote count of 565, up from the election night count of 515.

Incumbent Councilman James Morris (REP), who was hoping to serve a second term come 2022, had appeared to take that second seat with 348 votes, three more than Rebillard. But the BOE now says Morris was 377 short after the absentee votes were counted, take the third spot.

The unofficial votes had Katherine Lee (DEM) with 319 votes. Lee filed a lawsuit after those numbers came out, which she explained on social media amounted to requesting an unbiased lawyer be present for the absentee count. The final results came back with Lee in fourth place with 345 votes.

James Vitiello (CON, AS) went from 268 votes to 304, and former Democrat Stacy Mantel (WOR), saw a small spike from 76 to 87 with a “small number” of yet uncounted write-in votes also recorded in the hotly-contested election where 1,043 citizens spoke their minds.

In addition to the race for the two Town Board seats, incumbent town Supervisor Victoria Perotti (REP, CON) won her fifth term, running against newcomer Julie Doran (AS) (who lost to Perotti in the Republican Primary).

Town of Stanford

In the town of Stanford, 12 challenged ballots were still to be adjudicated after Judge Ed McLaughlin adjourned the case on Nov. 18.

As of press time, counts showed Town Board candidates Anne Arent (DEM) earned 670 votes after an initial vote of 630; Nathan Lavertue (DEM) was up to 677 votes from 640; Dennis Buchal (REP, CON) was up to 667 votes from 648; and candidate Hans Tabor (REP, CON) went from 542 votes to 560.

Town of Washington

In the Town of Washington, incumbent Councilman Michael Murphy won one of two seats on the Town Board; the second slot awaited a court decision from Judge Christi Acker on 17 ballots as Stephen Turletes (REP) and Leslie Heaney (My Millbrook-MM) were locked in a dead heat at 627 each, up from 613 and 596 votes, respectively.

Incumbent Councilman Joe Rochfort, meanwhile, won the unexpired Town Board seat left vacant by the death of the late Councilman Al de Bonis, which Rochfort will serve for one year.

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