New York Times
May 26, 2006
Dual Voting Registrations Force Candidate Off Ballot
By BRUCE LAMBERT and JULIA C. MEAD
For three decades Bruce A. Rich has spent summers in tiny Saltaire on Fire Island, where he has served as a village trustee for the last couple of years and was on the ballot seeking another term in today's local election.
But Mr. Rich has another home, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where he is also registered to vote and has been voting for years.
That proved to be a problem yesterday, when his dual registration and voting record were challenged in court by a former village trustee, Noel Feustal. He sought to remove Mr. Rich and two other local candidates from the ballot, claiming their primary residences were elsewhere.
In the end, the litigants settled the case in State Supreme Court in Riverhead as Mr. Rich volunteered to withdraw his name from the ballot. Even the judge in the case, Acting Justice Edward D. Burke Sr., was intrigued.
"Certainly this is something I would like to hear about, because there is a whole population in the East End of Long Island that does that regularly," he said.
The other two candidates cited by Mr. Feustal - Mayor Scott S. Rosenblum and Trustee Hugh A. O'Brien 3rd - acknowledged that they had homes in Westchester but that they had not voted there. Their names will be on the ballot today.
Voting records show that Mr. Rosenblum is still registered in Larchmont, but he said in an interview that he had not voted there since 1990, when he registered in Saltaire and began voting on Fire Island.
Saltaire elections have been close in the past and sometimes decided by a handful of votes. The candidates are unopposed this year, leaving open the possibility that Mr. Rich may yet be re-elected as a write-in.
Mr. Feustal charged in his lawsuit that nearly half the voters in the village were also registered elsewhere.
Overlapping registrations can occur when people move or have more than one residence, but legally they may vote in only one place. New York law requires that when a voter registers, he must sign an affidavit that he has lived in the jurisdiction at least 30 days before the election and must list a home address where he lives, the last year he voted and at what address.
"The law is clear that you can have multiple residences but only one voting residence, and you must designate which one," said Steven R. Schlesinger, a lawyer specializing in election law who is not involved in the Saltaire case.
When someone registers to vote, any prior registration elsewhere is supposed to be canceled, he said. "It's a crime to hold two active registrations."
Saltaire, where automobiles are banned and residents haul their groceries and suitcases in little red wagons along the Boardwalk, draws some prominent residents. They have included the designer Liz Claiborne, the actress Uma Thurman, the political consultant David Garth, the film director George Roy Hill and the former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, whose son, John A. Zaccaro Jr., served as a village trustee.
Saltaire claims only 43 year-round residents, many of them village employees and their families. The summer population is about 3,000.
If the elections were limited only to permanent residents, "we would have no voters and no candidates," Mr. Rich said. "It has been run that way for 89 years," since the village was founded, he said.
Mr. Rich said the voting dispute was part of a series of legal battles with Mr. Feustal over various issues. Mr. Feustal said: "We made our point. All we want is a clean, honest process. We intend to monitor the election and challenge people who are not properly registered."
Jo Craven McGinty and Margot Williams contributed reporting for this article.