Watertown lawmakers to vote Monday on mayoral primary tie

Updated: Jul. 12, 2019 at 4:37 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - The Watertown City Council is poised to officially weigh in on the tie in the primary for mayor.

Candidates Cody Horbacz and Allison Crossman tied for second place in the primary behind top vote-getter Jeff Smith. The top two vote-getters are supposed to move on to the November election, but so far, there has been no consensus on what to do about the tie.

Lawmakers will be asked to vote Monday on a resolution to ask the commissioners of the Jefferson County Board of Elections to put all three names on the ballot.

According to the resolution, “Mayor (Joe) Butler’s conversations with the Board of Elections have led him to the conclusion that the Commissioners do not believe that a recount of the recent primary for Mayor is justified. The Commissioners further believe that there is no legal authority which would permit a ‘run-off election.’”

The resolution goes on to ask council to pass a resolution to request that the commissioners certify the names of three people to advance to the November 2019 general election.

“The conclusion of the proposed resolution is that a fair reading of Section 18 of the Watertown Non-Partisan Primaries and Elections Law leads to the conclusion that, in the event of a tie, as occurred here, ‘the names of the persons who received the largest and next largest number of votes for Mayor,’ should include the top three vote-getters.”

Horbacz, who is a current member of city council, is recused from voting on the resolution.

The Watertown City Council had considered calling for a recount. But state election law says there has to be evidence the voting machines were wrong.

County election officials say one thing they’re sure of - the vote on Primary Day was accurate.

There’s also a court case from a few years ago which backs up the idea that there has to be some strong reason to believe the vote numbers would change in order for there to be a recount.

Meanwhile, Crossman’s lawyer penned a letter to the county board of elections. It echoes what city council will vote on. (To read the full letter below, click on ‘full screen’).

Attorney John Ciampoli wrote that Watertown’s election statute should be interpreted as all three candidates should be on the November ballot.

To make his case, Ciampoli used baseball statistics showing how players who have the same batting averages are considered tied for second place.

“I believe that a three way race is most fair option. I think it’s the best representation of what the voters asked for during the primary election,” said Crossman.

It’s unclear if the council resolution or Crossman’s lawyer’s letter will carry any weight. The board of elections says a lawsuit is needed to get its attention.

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