New Paltz Village Board candidates Don Kerr and Rebecca Rotzler will not be on the May 7 ballot, but are still campaigning to be written in.
After Trustee Sally Rhoads and former Trustee Vici Danskin successfully challenged Kerr’s and Rotzler’s petitions to be on the ballot, the Ulster County Board of Elections ruled the petitions invalid due to technical issues, the two candidates said.
According to Rotzler, some of the cases of disqualified signatures included voters who had already given up their two signatures, voters who moved within the village but didn’t change their address, voters who moved out of the village borders, voters who had gotten married and changed their last names and several other cases.
“The county board of elections invalidated both of our signatures where one should have been restored because it was a valid second signature,” Rotzler said. “There are many instances like that where the valid signature could have counted for one of us, but instead the Board of Elections disqualified both petitions.”
Rotzler said the deadline to file the $600 appeal was Friday, April 12 at 5 p.m., so the two candidates spent Friday “scrambling back and forth” with their lawyer.
“Don had gotten the paper work from the county that morning so it wasn’t enough time to really look at everything, for one, so we decided to just go ahead with the write-in campaign because even once we heard the words ‘challenges,’ we had already agreed that it was important enough for us to go ahead with the campaign regardless,” she said. “So write-in was instantly what we felt was a valid option.”
Though Kerr said he believes they could have prevailed in court, they “opted for lawn signs” and continued their campaigning by going door to door, volunteering at events like last Saturday’s Clean Sweep, writing letters to the editor and encouraging people to get out and vote.
“People have to write us in. Everyone gets a marker when they go to the voting booth and you can color in the bubble for a candidate on the ballot or you can write us in on the two lines,” Kerr said.
Kerr said he had decided to run for the position during Easter weekend, relatively later than other candidates, and wanted Rotzler to run with him. Kerr served on the school board when Rotzler was a village trustee and deputy mayor for four years.
“We are forward looking and future looking in many of the things we’ve done in the past and the plans that we have for the village,” Kerr said. “People who have been in office and faced tough criticism are better suited to face it in the future.”
Putting much of her social justice work on the back burner, Rotzler said she has devoted more time to their write-in campaign.
“It’s rare that a candidate comes so close with the amount of signatures and then to have it [the petitions] challenged and for a board of elections to knock you off the ballot essentially,” she said. “It’s a huge obstacle. This certainly was a learning experience but we’re so ready.”