Judge's ruling favors Casella in ballot case

Gwen Chamberlain
Steuben County Assistant District Attorney and Yates County District Attorney Valerie Gardner.

The voters will decide who wins the race for the Yates County District Attorney seat in the November election. But first, Republican voters will decide which candidate gets the coveted spot on the Republican line of the ballot when they vote in the Sept. 12 Primary.

New York State Supreme Court Justice John Ark released decisions on two lawsuits Monday, favoring Steuben County Assistant District Attorney Todd Casella’s arguments over those of Penelope Marchionda, a supporter of District Attorney Valerie Gardner.

Marchionda objected to Casella’s Republican, Independence, and Reform petitions. Yates County Election commissioners agreed with Marchionda’s objections to the Independence and Reform petitions, which they then invalidated. But the commissioners did not rule on the Republican petition objection. Marchionda took her case to Ark to rule on the validity of the Republican petitions. Marchionda said that Casella’s Republican petitions are invalid because they contain conflicting information about Casella’s place of residence, with three differing addresses on various pages of the petition.

At the same time, Casella asked Ark to overrule the local ruling on the Independence and Reform petitions, which the Yates County Election Commissioners had determined were invalid because of invalid notary acknowledgement.

In his decision about the Reform and Independence Party petitions, Ark said Casella’s failure to either circle or underline Notary Public or cross out Commissioner of Deeds was not an omission of title, as Marchionda argued, but rather a failure to eliminate excess wording. “This failure constitutes an ‘inconsequential error,’” wrote Ark. He directed the Board of Elections to place Casella’s name on the ballots for the Independence and Reform parties.

In his decision about the Republican petition, Ark wrote, “There is no evidence of any intention on the part of Casella or of those who had solicited and witnessed signatures on his behalf to mislead or confuse, and no evidence that inaccuracy did or would lead or tend to lead to misidentification or confusion on part of those invited to sign petitions or seeking to verify his qualification. His residency is not an immediate issue in that he is running for an office in a county in which he does not currently reside, but to which he must move and reside in should he win the general election.”