Immediate response needed to this urgent question:
Where can official observers be legally positioned during the manual counting of ballots of an election which follows Laborer's International Union of North America and Federal Labor Election Standards?
As a participant in the Local 190, Laborers' International Union of North America's (LIUNA) local election of officers conducted on September 30, 1998, in Albany, New York, this question became paramount.
Representatives from the American Arbitration Association (herein referred to as the AAA), three women from the Connecticut location—were empowered to count the ballots of this election. The AAA set the standards and guidelines to include the positioning of the official observer's chairs at a distance of approximately 45 feet from the counting tables.
Observers were instructed to remain seated at all times during the counting of the ballots. As our observers were aware of the case of Castillo vs. Local 652 in which a heated argument resulted in the Judge of Elections electing to complete the counting of the ballots under closed viewing; our observers feared the outcome had they contested the seating arrangement predetermined by the AAA.
Although able to count the number of ballots being processed, our observers were unable to see the actual vote cast. This prohibited the contesting of any questionable ballots or verification of actual votes. With various questionable activities having already taken place prior to this election, disallowing the viewing of the face of the cards contributed to the corruption of the voting process.
Once the AAA completed their counting, they announced the winner, not by tally numbers, just the winner, and immediately boxed up the completed and unused ballots and packed them into their vehicles and left the premises.
The AAA retained the ballots past the legal retention period before returning them to the local officials. Additionally, the AAA destroyed the unused ballots. This process alone violates the constitution of LIUNA which sets forth a process for verifying and maintaining possession of all ballots and their subsequent return to the local. This highlights a major concern for ensuring the fairness of this and any future election.
Our team responded immediately by filing numerous challenges to the many violations, which occurred throughout the election process. Our immediate challenge went to the LIUNA Independent Hearing Officer, Peter Viria, and subsequent follow-up to the United States Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards, Division of Enforcement, Chief, Lary Yud.
In Chief Yud's decision set forth in his Statement of Reasons, he admits under reason number 17 that "the observers could not view the marks on the ballots" but could keep tally of the votes. The voting system for this election used paper ballots being completed in pencil with erasers.
The election process voids any erased or changed ballots; however, we were not given the opportunity to see any ballot markings at all!
Additionally, he rules that the demolition of the unused ballots did not affect the "outcome of the election." How could any other party be confident that tampering of the ballots could not have occurred without the ability to see the ballots or verify their existence after numerous ballots had been destroyed?
After having participated in this tainted election, many of the members, including myself, have completed extensive investigations to determine the voting procedures used in other LIUNA elections as well as federal run elections.
Many high profile elections, including the 2000 Presidential
Election, Congressional Election, Attorney General Election, the LIUNA General Presidential Election and other local and national union elections have brought to the public eye the potential for errors in our election process.
Subsequently, many of the manual elections have been performed under public scrutiny and under the watchful eye of official observers and the media.
During these publicized elections, observers have been located within visual sight of the markings on the face of the ballots so that they may contest, or verify actual votes.
The LIUNA elections throughout the nation provide election of officers for some 800,000 members. As an active union member, I am aware of the guidelines and standards for which our constitution follows and their compliance with the U.S. Federal elections process.
Our request in this letter is to find an answer to the question of "Where can official observers be when the counting of manual ballots is occurring?" Why for this particular election were observers required to sit so far away, yet in other elections being conducted under the same LIUNA Constitution and other Federal elections the observers are allowed to view the ballots for the purpose of contesting and verifying actual votes.
This matter takes on extreme urgency for me in particular as I wish to participate in a fair election. The nomination of officers for the upcoming of elections for LIUNA Local 190 is to be performed on March 14, 2001.
If the answer to this question can be obtained and a fair election run, I would seek nomination.
This letter is being blanketed and individually addressed throughout New York State local, and state officials, U.S. Federal Government Agencies, statewide and nationwide media and publications in an attempt to address this question.
It will be released immediately and response is required
prior to March 14, 2001. A copy of the distribution list follows.
As a nation that prides itself on fairness and equality, I hope the seriousness of this issue, even though only on a local level, will receive the same attention that has been placed on recent elections throughout the United States.
Please respond immediately to:
Carmen F. Francella, Jr.
6 Laurel Lane
Schenectady, NY 12304
Phone/Fax (518) 346-9022
Email @ Sheli28@aol.com