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Lawsuit Claiming Voter Disenfranchisement in Mt. Pleasant Holds No Weight

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By George F. Calvi

It mystifies me that in a recently filed lawsuit a seemingly self-appointed group of spokespersons on behalf of all citizens of Hispanic heritage, mostly from the Village of Sleepy Hollow, claim because Democrats rarely, if ever, win any Town of Mount Pleasant elections, the town must be racist.

Such warped thinking boggles the mind. As cited in one of the local newspapers recently, 40 percent of the registered voters in town are Democrats, and 28 percent of the registered voters are Republicans. Just by those simple numbers the Democrats should be winning every elective office each and every year. But they’re not. Why is that? Are the Democratic voters not coming out to vote? Or are the Republicans doing a better job at campaigning?

The general election was just a few months ago. Why didn’t the Democrats have any Hispanics on the ticket? It is my understanding noble efforts were made to enlist Hispanic candidates, but none were interested. There were three available slots on the Democratic ticket last autumn, and no Hispanic candidates stepped forward. Why was this? Was the fix already in? Was it because the plaintiffs were already contemplating this lawsuit and having one or more Hispanic candidates on the ticket didn’t fit their agenda and would have watered down their defense?

In speaking with a reliable source in Sleepy Hollow, though there are elected Hispanic officials in that village, no Hispanic has thrown their hat into the ring for town-wide office in recent memory. So, how by any stretch of the imagination do the plaintiffs in this case think they have a cause of action? Let’s not forget the New York Lottery’s slogan for years, “You got to be in it, to win it.”

In my humble conclusion, if no effort has ever been made by the plaintiffs to be in a town-wide campaign, one cannot possibly be lodging claims of disenfranchisement. There is no doubt in my mind that a person of Hispanic heritage, or any ethnic group for that matter, can get elected in an at-large system, but first he or she has to try! Sleepy Hollow, the Valhalla School District and Pleasantville are nearby examples of success.

This whole matter just doesn’t pass the smell test for me. I am hoping that whichever judge is assigned this case sees what this effort truly is – a subterfuge. Under the mask of the newly-enacted New York Voting Rights Act, a small group of residents is attempting to guarantee representation on the Town Board, something for whatever reason they are not inclined to achieve or even compete for through the normal elective process. Rather they want representation handed to them on a silver platter by eliminating at-large elections and implementing a ward system that would guarantee them a seat.

All that aside, there really is a fair and simple solution to all this. According to my sources at the Westchester County Board of Elections, candidates for the November 2024 elections have a filing deadline of April to get on the ballot. An appeal ought to be made to the judge presiding over this case to hold off any deliberations until after this deadline to facilitate an opportunity for any of the plaintiffs or the candidates of their choice to declare their intentions to run for town office. If they do so, more power to them. I wish them luck!

Spirited contested elections are always far more interesting. If they fail to take this opportunity to put up a candidate, they will be unable to escape the public’s belief their recent court filing is nothing but a backdoor power grab to unfairly guarantee a position on the Town Board.

Plain and simple, if they don’t put up a candidate or candidates in the tried-and-true old-fashioned way, the optics would be really bad for them. Afterall, in a contest nobody likes a player who doesn’t play by the rules or seeks special treatment imposed by the legal system.

Valhalla resident George F. Calvi is the former village manager in Ardsley.

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