The Putnam Examiner

Denbaum Files Legal Action Against Elections Board

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After being tossed off the ballot last week, Republican candidate for Putnam County executive Paul Denbaum is taking his fight to the legal system in hopes of being reinstated on the ballot.

Denbaum filed the expected legal action against both board of elections commissioners, and the Odell campaign, arguing that the elections commissioners erred in invalidating many of his signatures and there are enough eligible Republican signatures to remain on the ballot.

Denbaum is seeking a GOP primary against incumbent MaryEllen Odell set for September if he can get back on the ballot. Currently, Denbaum is 59 signatures short of having at least the 1,000 Republican signatures necessary.

The board of elections booted Denbaum because signatures he collected either included an illegible address, illegible signatures, signatures didn’t match, the signature line contained the incorrect town, or the residence address was incomplete. Some signatures were also tossed because the signer used a print style, instead of cursive.

The legal brief filed by Denbaum argued the objections by GOP committee vice-char John Greene should not have been granted by the board of elections commissioners Tony Scannapieco and Cathy Croft.

“If successful in their effort to remove Petitioner (Denbaum) from the ballot, the Objector (Greene) and the Putnam County Board of Elections will have stripped hundreds of voters of their constitutional rights to free speech and association by seeking to invalidate actual signatures of Registered Republicans,” Denbaum wrote. “The Court should refute this effort and allow to stand the over 1,000 valid Registered Republican signatures designating the Petitioner for Office.”

Denbaum also argued the board of elections failed to provide him with “meaningful notice” when it conducted an administrative review of Greene’s objections on July 23. He said the board received specific objections from Greene around 9 a.m. and held a review five- and a-half hours after receiving those objections. Denbaum wrote he was told of the hearing about an hour before it began and he didn’t receive the type of objections filed until the administrative hearing was already underway.

“As a result Petitioner was and is prejudiced by the fact that he was unable to attend the Administrative Review or send a representative, unable to review the objections prior to the Administrative Review,” Denbaum wrote.

In an interview, Denbaum said he was “very confident” on several of the legal issues he’s brought forward. He argued case law shows that if a person prints, instead of signs, their name, the signature should count.

“There is no doubt these are registered Republicans who signed,” Denbaum said. “And they choose to use a print style instead of a cursive style.”

Additionally, another batch of signatures were thrown out only because an address was missing a word on the street name. For instance, Denbaum said some signees wrote Sparrow Road instead of Sparrow Ridge Road, which resulted in the signature being tossed.

“I’m not trying to sneak things in through the back door, I’m talking about honest Republicans voters signing my petition.” Denbaum said.

As for the short notice ahead of the hearing, Denbaum said it made it more difficult to get time-sensitive paperwork complete in order to take legal action. He also said if he had more time he would have contemplated filing a motion to stop Scannapieco, the GOP commissioner, from presiding over the board of elections hearing due to a “conflict of interest” because he is involved in Odell’s campaign.

“The guy who’s ruling whether my petition signatures are valid is actually in a meeting talking about petition strategy (with Odell),” Denbaum said.

Scannapieco, in an interview, dismissed Denbaum’s conflict of interest claim. He stressed as the commissioner for 28 years, he has followed the law throughout his tenure.

“I’m not worried about one disgruntled lawyer this year,” Scannapieco said, referring to Denbaum. “I do my job and that’s the way it is.”

According to state election law, signers must write in cursive and not print if the signature they have filed with the county board of elections is cursive and a complete address much be filled out, Scannapieco said.

He added the notice would not have made a difference since Denbaum is prohibited from speaking during the hearing. He also received all proper documents in due time that day, Scannapieco said.

A conference with the judge is scheduled for this Wednesday. The board of elections filed paperwork rebutting Denbaum’s claims, but the Odell campaign has not.

“The law is the law,” Scannapieco said. “That’s up to the judge to decide, judges are supposed to interpret the law, not make the law. Case law says it has to be that way and that’s the way it is. We go by what the law says we have to do.”

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