Panel finds voters were turned away in error

May 26, 1999|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

Long Reach officials wrongfully turned residents away in last month's Columbia Council election, a village committee conceded last night, but the results will not be changed.

The three-member committee unanimously agreed that four residents who were denied ballots, or whose ballots were not counted in the race between incumbent Cecilia Januszkiewicz and challenger Deborah Tolson, should have been allowed to vote.

Januszkiewicz won the April 17 election by 13 votes out of 215 cast.

Januszkiewicz's husband, M. Albert Figinski, who attended the meeting in her place, said: "The election was certified on the day of the election, it remains certified and my wife remains the winner."

Tolson said after the decision that the committee's admission of error "undermines the entire election."

She plans to continue fighting the results in court, she said.

The committee's findings came about a month after Tolson called the election "tainted" and requested a recount. She claimed that an undetermined number of residents were wrongfully turned away at the polls because they did not provide a copy of a current lease, and that the voting log book contained "irregularities."

Henry Dagenais, chairman of the village board and a member of the election committee, said the former claim was substantiated because a current lease was not required. He said he found no evidence to support Tolson's second allegation.

"Our concern was to guarantee the right of franchise to every eligible association member," said John Snyder, the election committee chairman.

Despite last night's ruling, which the committee issued more than two weeks before its deadline, the matter remains in the county court system.

Tolson filed a petition for an injunction May 5 in Howard Circuit Court, seeking to prevent Januszkiewicz from holding the Long Reach seat on the 10-member board, which is made up of one representative from each of Columbia's villages.

The Columbia Association and the Long Reach Community Association were named as co-defendants in the case; Januszkiewicz filed a motion to intervene, asking to become a party to the proceedings.

Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. denied Tolson's request for an ex parte injunction -- one without a response from the defendants.

Long Reach attorney Thomas M. Meachum said Tolson's remaining petitions were invalid because the plaintiff served the papers herself.

Tolson filed another petition for injunction last week in an attempt to bar CA and the Long Reach association from "validating" the original election results.

Pub Date: 5/26/99

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