Port Chester voters will have the option to vote early for both the mayoralty and the trustee race in March 2013, under a plan endorsed Nov. 19 by the Board of Trustees.
Early voting – a novelty in New York state – must be provided in Port Chester’s village trustee races under the village’s consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice. A federal judge ordered changes to the trustee election system after the DOJ sued, saying the old system essentially denied Hispanics a fair shot at electing their preferred candidates to the board. The village adopted cumulative voting as its remedy, and must provide voter education and early balloting the week leading up to the election.
A divided board debated whether to include the mayoral race in early voting or force voters to come back on Election Day to cast a ballot for mayor. “Nobody wants to come back twice,” Trustee Dan Brakewood said in supporting the idea. Three trustees were opposed, questioning the village’s legal right to offer early voting for an elected position that wasn’t part of the judge’s order.
The measure passed 4-3 with a deciding vote coming from John Branca, who returned to the board after a long absence due to illness.
Trustee Bart Didden questioned Mayor Dennis Pilla’s political interest in the matter, should he run again. The two were rivals in the 2011 mayoral race. Neither announced whether they intended to run for office again in March. The mayor said the new measure would make the election simpler, less costly and supportive of voter participation.
The board also hired attorney Brian Sokoloff to work with the DOJ on adjustments to the consent decree. You can watch the full discussion at this site.