One of the biggest news stories in Kings County in 2012 was the disqualification of candidates in the October municipal election.
With his Dec. 21 decision to rule the elections in districts 8 and 11 void, Supreme Court Judge Gregory Warner signaled a new chapter in the electoral saga.
Regardless of what you think of the decision, it was obvious Warner deliberated long and hard about the case, which was far from cut and dry.
Some argue, if one follows the Municipal Elections Act by the letter, Rick Ackland and Jim Winsor were not qualified to run. However, Warner didn’t share the view that the intention of the legislation was for remunerated volunteer citizen appointees to be disqualified from running as council candidates.
Applicants Winsor, Ackland and county resident Nancy Saul-Demers argued the returning officer had no jurisdiction under the legislation to disqualify the subject candidates, especially after accepting their nominations. The judge agreed.
There would have always been a cloud of doubt hanging over the results of the Oct. 20 vote, if action hadn’t been taken to address the disqualifications. Even though there was no wrong doing on the part of any of the candidates – and some might argue it isn’t fair for the winning candidates, Gary Connolly and Dale Lloyd, to lose their seats – but a fresh vote is the best way to ensure democratic fairness.
It is important to note returning officer Heather Archibald was simply trying to uphold the virtues of the Municipal Elections Act in making her decisions. However, Warner ruled she had no legal authority to make such a ruling after accepting the nominations.
There are still questions to be answered in the wake of the court decision. Which of the candidates involved in the Oct. 20 vote decide to reoffer? Will new candidates jump into the race? One of the key decisions will be whether Kings County decides to appeal Warner’s decision. An appeal could hold up the byelection process – leaving the two districts without representation at the council table for months.
Ackland and Winsor both said they were pleased with the legal ruling because it supported the integrity of community-minded volunteers who want to run for municipal office. This is a good thing. Volunteers play an important role in local governance and we need more people willing to take on these positions.
Looking forward to the new elections, we hope they won’t be mired in controversy this time and voters can make their choice without distractions.
It might seem like déjà vu, but we hope voters in the both districts exercise their democratic rights and mark their ballots.