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Samuel Radford, et al v. Erie County Board of Elections

September 25, 2011

SAMUEL RADFORD, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ERIE COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny Chief Judge United States District Court

DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs Samuel Radford III, Halimah Muhammad, and Renee McIntyre are registered voters in Buffalo, New York. Defendants are the Erie County Board of Elections, Erie County Board of Elections Commissioner Ralph M. Mohr, Erie County Board of Elections Commissioner Dennis E. Ward, the New York State Department of Education, and the New York State Department of Education Commissioner Richard P. Mills. (Compl. (Docket No. 1).)

In their complaint, Plaintiffs seek injunctive and declaratory relief nullifying the May 5, 2009, election for the City of Buffalo School Board. (Compl. ¶ 2.) Plaintiffs allege the election was tainted by the improper inclusion of a disqualified candidate, Fred Yellen, on absentee ballots. (Compl. ¶¶ 18-19.)

Pending before this Court is the Motion to Dismiss of Defendants New York State Department of Education ("DOE") and DOE Commissioner Richard P. Mills (Docket No. 7).*fn1 Also pending before this Court is the Motion to Dismiss of Defendants Erie County Board of Elections ("ECBOE") and ECBOE Commissioners Ralph M. Mohr and Dennis E. Ward (Docket No. 9).*fn2 For the reasons stated below, the motion of Defendants DOE and Commissioner Mills is GRANTED. The motion of Defendants ECBOE and Commissioners Mohr and Ward is GRANTED.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

Plaintiffs Samuel Radford III, Halimah Muhammad, and Renee McIntyre are all African-Americans registered to vote in Buffalo, New York. (Compl. ¶¶ 8-10.) Each of the Plaintiffs voted in the May 5, 2009 election for the Buffalo School Board. (Id.) Plaintiffs all voted for at-large candidate Bryon McIntyre. (Id.)

The DOE is a New York state agency, and Defendant Mills was, at the time of the School Board election, the Commissioner of the DOE. (See Compl. ¶¶ 14-15.) According to the DOE, Defendant Mills was replaced as Commissioner by Carole F. Huxley as of July 1, 2009. (DOE's and Mills' Mot. Dismiss at 2 n.1.)

The ECBOE is an elections board organized under the Erie County Charter, and Defendants Mohr and Ward are ECBOE Commissioners and executive officers.*fn3 (Compl. ¶¶ 12-13.)

Between February 24 and April 7, 2009, candidates were eligible to file nominating petitions to run for positions on the Buffalo School Board. (Compl. ¶ 16.) At the conclusion of the nominating process, nine candidates, including Bryon McIntyre and Fred Yellen, had enough valid signatures for their names to appear on the ballot for the May 5, 2009 election. (Compl. ¶ 17.) However, the ECBOE later determined that Mr. Yellen's nominating petitions were invalid, and he was removed from the ballot on or about April 27, 2009. (Id.)

At or about the time Mr. Yellen was disqualified, the ECBOE sent more than 800 absentee ballots to voters who requested such ballots. (Compl. ¶ 18.) The absentee ballots still listed Mr. Yellen as a candidate. (Compl. ¶ 19.) The ECBOE did not take any corrective measures to recall or reissue the absentee ballots that incorrectly included Mr. Yellen. (Id.)

On May 5, 2009, Bryon McIntyre received the third highest number of votes for one of the three at-large School Board positions. (Compl. ¶ 20.) When all of the votes (except for the absentee ballots) were tabulated, Mr. McIntyre maintained a lead of 51 votes over the fourth-place candidate, Florence D. Johnson, and a lead of 58 votes over the fifth-place candidate, Catherine Collins. (Compl. ¶ 21.)

On May 13, 2009, Bryon McIntyre and his representatives were invited to the ECBOE offices to monitor the counting of the absentee ballots. (Compl. ¶ 23.) At that meeting, Mr. McIntyre and his representatives discovered that Fred Yellen had incorrectly been listed as a candidate on the absentee ballots. (Compl. ¶ 24.) Mr. McIntyre objected to the counting of the absentee ballots, but Defendants ...


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