Our system of fair, honest and open elections must be inviolate. It is the only way the public’s ultimate confidence in and support of our form of government will endure through the harsh trials that beset it every day.
Those who work to make elections even just a little less fair or a little less honest or a little less open should have no place in the process.
Thus it is good that a question of fairness surrounding last year’s 150th Assembly District race is set to get a full and open hearing.
It will take place in the realm of the third branch of government - the courts - and so we feel compelled to say up front that our support for a close examination of what happened does not mean we have judged that something criminal took place.
We do not know exactly what happened nor what it means - and that is the point. For the sake of public confidence and support of our form of government, we all need to find out.
This is what we know:
Incumbent Democrat Assemblyman William Parment decided to not seek re-election last year. Democrat Nancy Bargar and Republican Andrew Goodell decided to run for the post.
However, as we have reported, to properly drop out of the election, Parment had to officially decline the endorsements of both the Democratic Party and the Independence Party.
Without his official declinations for each party’s endorsement, no one else could hold those lines on November’s ballot. As election filing deadlines fast approached, Parment signed both declinations in the office of Democrat Election Commissioner Norman Green’s office.
The declination for the Democratic Party was then filed immediately with the Board of Elections - making way for Nancy Bargar to secure the Democrats’ endorsement.
The Independence Party declination, however, was put into the U.S. mail by Green for delivery back to himself at the Board of Elections. Then it remained unopened on Green’s desk for several days before being officially filed. During that time, certain elections deadlines passed - deadlines which prevented Goodell from being able file for a primary election challenge to the endorsement of Nancy Bargar by the leadership of the Independence Party.
After that, Goodell pursued a felony charge against Green based on election law. As you have read, a grand jury declined to issue a felony indictment, but Green faces misdemeanor charges under two specific sections of the election law that deal with fraudulently or wrongfully doing something that tends to affect the result of any primary election, caucus or convention; and doing anything to hinder or delay any elector from taking part in or voting at a primary election or caucus.
That’s where we are today.
The misdemeanor charges will be heard by a judge from Cattaraugus County because, quite properly, Chautauqua County Court Judge John Ward, who holds an elective office and so has had dealings with county Board of Elections, has recused himself.
Green’s attorney, James Subjack, said, “We’re looking forward to bringing the facts out to the public and I’m very confident that ultimately the charges will be dismissed either by motion or trial.”
We do not know what the disposition should or will be, but we too are looking forward to the facts being thoroughly aired.
Voters deserve no less than that.