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Charter plan has majority support

Wednesday, November 07, 2012 - Updated: 7:10 PM

By HEATHER NELLIS

Recorder News Staff

Voters won't know until later today whether a proposal to change Montgomery County's form of government has been approved or defeated, Board of Elections officials said late Tuesday, because the proposition numbers still need to be broken down by municipality.

In order to adopt the proposed local law establishing a home-rule charter, the referendum was required to garner a majority in the city of Amsterdam, and a cumulative majority of the 10 towns.

According to unofficial tallies on the county's website, with all 48 districts reporting, the countywide vote rested in favor of the proposal at 7,964-4,984.

But election board officials said there was no time to break down those numbers as results streamed in Tuesday.

Democratic election Commissioner Jamie Duchessi said, "We still have to separate those, because that's the way it's printed by the machine, and the machines are programmed at the districts. Later, we'll have it separated by district and municipality, but there's no time tonight."

Charter Commission Chairman Dustin Swanger said he's cautiously optimistic about the outcome.

"The numbers are looking good, and though we have to see breakdown, I think there's a message being said that we need change. I think it's very encouraging for the future."

Montgomery County Elections Commissioner Terrence Smith said Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive order allowing New York City residents displaced by Hurricane Sandy to vote anywhere in New York state by affidavit caused problems at many Montgomery County polling places. Smith said that a lot of people showed up at the polls trying to vote by affidavit, instead of going to the polling place where they were registered. The Board of Elections will have to sort out the affidavits, keeping those from registered Montgomery County voters and sending affidavits from displaced New York City residents downstate.

Calling it an "extra burden," Smith said, "there might be a lot of votes that don't get counted if we determine that they are not valid Montgomery County voters."

The charter seeks to transfer the authority of the Board of Supervisors to a nine-member legislature, and institute an elected county executive position.

The proposition was the culmination of seven months of expedited research, deliberation and public meetings by the Charter Commission, which was appointed in March by the Board of Supervisors.

It was required, by resolution, to craft a charter in less than four months.

A charter is a document that defines the powers and duties of a government.

The commission was given the option whether the charter transferred legislative functions to a legislature, or retained a board of supervisors. The commission chose the former.

Currently, 10 supervisors are elected to serve their town governments, and they also serve on the county board with five supervisors elected from each of the city of Amsterdam's wards.

The charter also sought to institute the elected executive to oversee the county departments. He or she would have appointed department heads, proposed a budget, and had veto powers that could have been overridden by a two-thirds majority of the legislature.

     

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