Political Putdown

Green Party Goes to Court Over Use of Paper Ballots

As of press time, the Green Party planned to file a federal lawsuit this week against New York City over the Board of Election's decision to use paper ballots for the party's candidates in next week's primary.

Raymond Dowd, the party's lawyer and a candidate on the ticket for state assembly said that having to vote by paper ballots constitutes "separate but unequal treatment" and is a violation of our fundamental right to vote. "Back of the bus wasn't good enough for Rosa Parks, and that's why we have civil rights legislation today. We're not going to be segregated or permit them to steal votes anymore," said Dowd.


"We had four [candidates] and when I got there, no polling worker seemed to have a clue that there was a Green Party in the primary."


Craig Seeman, the elections coordinator for the Greens, said, "This could be precedent setting if we win because it's not simply just an election law case; it's probably an equal rights or voting rights lawsuit."

This year, the Greens have gained unparalleled popularity nationwide and feel they are taken seriously as a third party.

Weyman A. Carey, president of commissioners for the Kings County Board of Elections, said that the board can't accommodate the Green Party on voting machines because they have so few members. "If there's only one Green Party member voting, then we know who that person voted for. But with a paper ballot, it's put into an envelope and the envelope is sealed so you don't see [what's on] the paper ballot."

"We now have the understanding that some of our poll workers. . . [didn't know] what they were supposed to do." Carey promises that in the future poll workers will know how to handle paper ballots.

Susan Osofsky, a registered Green who works for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and lives in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn, said, "I went to vote on Underhill Avenue. It was really good that the Green newsletter had information on what to do, because I knew more about how the process was supposed to work than the BOE staff. They knew nothing about it."

Julia Willebrand, a former university professor who lives on the Upper East Side and works as an environmental activist, talked about her experience at her polling site. "I went to the presidential primary expecting to vote for Ralph Nader. We had four [candidates] and when I got there, no polling worker seemed to have a clue that there was a Green Party in the primary . . . There was no booth for me to vote. I had to go into a corner. When I asked what they were going to do with [the paper ballot], they looked at me like I was nuts."

Fortunately, Seeman's wife, Michelle Danels, happened to videotape some polling sites throughout the city. The party plans to use the videotape as evidence and has collected affidavits to support their case.

Seeman says the Greens will continue to fight the BOE, "which is trying to make us feel invisible like in the old days down South when they had separate but equal accommodations."

 
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