A judge Wednesday cleared the way for the winner of a disputed Chautauqua County Legislature seat to be sworn in this weekend. Barring a successful appeal, he also ensured that the Legislature will have a Democratic majority.
State Supreme Court Justice John J. Callahan of the Appellate Division's Fourth Department in Rochester upheld a lower court ruling, affirming the narrow victory of Democrat Robert Anderson over Republican Kenneth Dahlgren.
"I am anxious to serve the residents of District 8 in the towns of Carroll, Kiantone and Busti," Anderson said in a statement. "I ran for this post because I want to do anything I can to make Chautauqua County a better place to live. I hope with this decision that we can turn to focusing on the issues as hand, that is helping Chautauqua County and the taxpayers."
Dahlgren said he had not been officially notified of the decision and declined to comment until he did.
Anderson led Republican incumbent Dahlgren by three votes after absentee and affidavit ballots had been counted following last month's election. But five ballots were not opened or counted because county elections commissioners disagreed on whether they contained errors or technical infractions.
By law, the ballots had to remain closed for five days. During that time, Anderson filed a court challenge, requesting they not be counted. State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Gerace agreed, and they remained closed, giving Anderson the win.
Last week, Legislature Chairman James Caflisch announced that an appeal had been filed.
At issue, said Caflisch, were the rights of three registered voters. Two voted by absentee ballot, and the third was by affidavit. A hearing was held to determine whether to grant a stay to the GOP, and not allow Anderson to take the oath until after a decision was made on the appeal.
The outcome of the case also decided whether the Legislature has a Democrat or Republican majority. If Gerace's ruling stands, the Legislature will have 13 Democrats and 12 Republicans.
He and the GOP could still file a civil rights lawsuit in federal court on behalf of the three voters, or appeal to the state Court of Appeals.