Saratoga Springs charter change advocates get boost from court ruling

In the wake of an appellate court decision, Spa City’s charter change advocates are once again trying to get their hands on electronic images of ballots cast in November’s charter referendum that was defeated by a narrow 10-vote margin.

Robert Turner, the chair of the now defunct Saratoga Springs Charter Review Commission, which recommended changing the city’s 100-year-old commission form of government, sent a Freedom of Information Request on Monday afternoon to the Saratoga County Board of Elections.

Turner and Gordon Boyd, a fellow charter change proponent, were emboldened to try again after an April 12 3-2 ruling in Kosmider vs. Whitney in the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court. The panel of five judges decided that electronic images of election ballots can be accessed through the Freedom of Information Act. Justice Stan Pritzker, writing for the majority, said that “once electronic ballot images have been preserved … there is no statutory impediment to disclosure and they may be obtained through a FOIL request.”

“The decision was clearly a ruling in favor of transparency and accountability. FOIL request of electronic copies of ballots do not require a court order,” Boyd said. “We are resubmitting our FOIL request.”

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Court: Votes are viewable

Essex County officials consider whether to appeal further

A New York appeals court ruled Thursday that the state Freedom of Information Law covers the electronically scanned images of ballots taken from voting machines.

This is how it works: A person fills out a paper ballot, which doesn’t have his or her name or identifying information on it. The voter slips that ballot into a voting machine, where an electronic image is recorded. That image is saved onto two flash drives in a random fashion, which preserves anonymity. The paper ballot is then fed into a secure box underneath the machine. One flash drive is removed and given to the local board of elections. All the data is transferred over to a larger hard drive, and the now-blank flash drive can be used for another election.

Only after the process is complete can the vote be requested via FOIL.

The state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division, Third Department made the decision in the case of Kosmider v. Whitney.

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