Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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September 11th, 2009

Election residency laws must be enforced

People are outraged that members of the Hassidic community who come to Sullivan County for only eight weeks out of the year are registering to vote.

As long as someone lives at a residence for 30 days they qualify to register, but then comes the legal question if they are eligible to vote if their dwelling is closed for ten months out of the year.

The catalyst of this registration drive is due to a dispute between the United Talmudical Academy located on the site of the former Lapidus Bungalow Colony and the Town of Bethel over construction of a synagogue.

Town officials claimed a special use permit was needed in addition to a building permit and halted occupancy of the facility.

The matter went to court, and County Judge Frank LaBuda, after visiting the site in what has become a famous photo op of him pounding the walls, granted temporary permission for the Satmar sect of Hassidim to occupy a portion of the new synagogue for just religious purposes notwithstanding the town’s engineer’s reservations about the structure.

LaBuda was right in permitting the shul to be used. The Hassidim needed the house of worship for the summer months, and there was no reason why the matter had to go to court. A temporary permit could have been issued to avoid this mess.

Bethel Supervisor Dan Sturm claimed he and the town board was following the law.

An undertone of accusations accusing Sturm and the town board of anti-Semitism began to surface. Sturm, who is Jewish, upset and deeply hurt over the allegations, responded in the Yeshiva World News calling allegations “outright lies.” He pointed out that many of his family members died in concentration camps.

Sturm claimed the builder tried “to circumvent very basic rules of building and construction, and jeopardized the safety of those going to use the new building.”
Coincidentally or not, the Hassidic community in Bethel now wants their voices heard in elections, and is registering people to vote and endorsing candidates.

Sources within the Hassidic community have told me all the attention to unseat Sturm is a smoke screen, and the real objective is to support particular candidates in the countywide elections.

Indeed, my sources might be right, because I spoke with Sturm’s opponent Harold Russell, and his views are very similar to Sturm’s if not even stronger. Russell told me “Everyone must be treated the same, the law must be followed. There cannot be any special treatment.”

The issue has incensed so many people not because of religious ideology, but because of the desire to sway an election by people who do not pay property taxes and live here several weeks out of the year.

Will the Board of Elections allow these new registrants to vote or will the matter wind up in court? I did some research over the past few weeks, and according to election law, and specific court rulings the answer should without a doubt be no.

The Board of Elections can determine if the “voter’s intent” on residency is real or contrived.

Prospective voters who maintained second residences and weekend homes have been allowed to vote because they had genuine, long term contacts with a town created out of a true desire to become part of the community.

Courts ruled that crucial determination whether a particular residence complies with the requirements of the Election Law, where a voter has two residences, is
that the individual must manifest an intent coupled with physical presence “without any aura of sham.”

Indeed, it is clear that the Election Law does not preclude a person from having two residences and choosing one for election purposes provided he or she has “legitimate, significant and continuing attachments’ to that residence”

The court has ruled it is not about dual residences but whether the residence is a legitimate one.

I cannot in good conscience see how the Board of Elections can rule an eight week occupant of a bungalow colony is a legitimate voting residence. Can you?

1 comment to Election residency laws must be enforced

  • Phil Featherbay


    I agree with you 110%, but, this travesty has been pointed out to the election board numerous times and their attitude is “now lets see which candidate are they backing?” Until we can get honest bi-partisan people in these offices nothing will change. Since this is the most political appointment there is, guess what isn’t going to change.

    Keep bringing this stuff out in the open, so few know what really goes on.