City School Board ballot not final

Apr 27, 2016

Next Tuesday eligible Buffalo voters will have the chance to decide on six Board of Education races.  But the ballot is not finalized as two of the candidates appear in court today for petition challenges. WBFO's Focus on Education Reporter Eileen Buckley spoke with one of the Erie County Board of Election Commissioners about preparations for the school board election.

"If we can get these things resolved in court, we'll be able to do what we have to do to make this all work by next Tuesday," said Len Lenihan, Democratic Election Commissioner.

Buffalo School Board at City Hall.
Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

Wednesday North District incumbent Jay McCarthy returns to State Supreme Court. He's been accused of gathering signatures fraudulently. Arguments in his challenge began Tuesday. Buffalo Attorney Hope Jay is opposing McCarthy for the seat.

Lenihan tells WBFO News he's expecting decisions Wednesday and it will be a quick turnaround to prep the ballots in what's been a busy season since the New York State Presidential Primary.

"It certainly was a difficult time constraint with New York State having a fairly late primary, you know April 19th is fairly late in the primary season, even though it is not over yet.  But the fact is, in this case, for the first time in some time we've been e really constricted in what we can do here in that the two of them are so close together. We’re literally still counting absentee ballots. We're still doing affidavit ballots probably for another week," said Lenihan.

Meanwhile, incumbent and School Board President James Sampson, who was knocked off the West District ballot last week for not having enough valid signatures, also returns to court Wednesday to challenge the decision. Jennifer Mecozzi  of PUSH Buffalo is vying for Sampson's seat. 

Voter turnout for the city school board elections is normally low.  In 2014 a little more than 13-percent voted. But Lenihan noted with the nation charged up from the Presidential campaigns, he believes the Buffalo school board races could spark more interest this year.

"We always hope for a big turnout because it is simply good for democracy. It's good for any level of government that's having an election, to have as many people participating as possible, so we hope the people in Buffalo next week get out and vote and express their opinions about this school board," remarked Lenihan.