LITTLE FALLS — Michael Lonis may have run an unsuccessful campaign for Third Ward alderman in the city of Little Falls, but he believes the election night returns may have been different had he received a list of all the registered voters in his ward.
“The information given to me by the Herkimer County Board of Elections listed all of the registered voters in the second district of the Third Ward. I used this list to gain the required 10 signatures to get my name on the ballot. In fact, I actually got 20 signatures because it’s a good idea to get more signatures than required in case someone challenges your petition,” Lonis said during an interview Thursday. “I used this same list to decide where to place my political signs and where to canvass neighborhoods, knock on doors and hand out absentee ballots and voter registration cards. Admittedly, I did not know what ward I was in when I first went to the Board of Elections, so I provided them with my address and I was told I was in the second district of the Third Ward. Never did they tell me I had another 182 potential registered voters in the first district of the Third Ward, and they never provided me with a list of the 182 registered voters in that district.”
Lonis said Thursday afternoon he was unaware of he could campaign in the first district of the Third Ward until an hour before the polls closed on Election Day.
“Did I feel kind of dumb and stupid when I found out from another alderman I had this potential voter pool that I could have reached? Yes. Was this entirely my fault? I honestly don’t think it is. It may have been an innocent mistake, but I believe this innocent mistake denied me access to approximately 40 percent of my voting public,” he said.
Lonis said had he known the 182 registered voters in the first district of the Third Ward could have voted for him, he would have actively campaigned there.
“If you look at the election night numbers, I received 37 votes out of 300 potential registered voters, which is about 12 votes per 100 voters. There were about 200 potential registered voters in the first district. Using the same math, I could have received 24 or 25 votes in the first district, which would have put me at 61 or 62 votes overall. I might have won the election had I known I had access to the first district voters,” he said.
Unofficial election results provided by the Herkimer County Board of Elections listed incumbent Mark Ruffing, a Democrat, and independent candidate Peter DeLuca as the winners of the Third Ward race with 95 votes and 58 votes, respectively. Lonis finished with 45 votes and incumbent Douglas Barnes, a Republican, finished with 34 votes.
Eight of Lonis’ 45 votes came from the first district of the Third Ward.
Page 2 of 3 - “I took a few days to settle down and then I went to the Board of Elections to see if I could get answers to the questions I had. I had wanted for the deputy commissioner who handed me my packet that contained the rules, the petition to get my name on the ballot and the registered voter list for the second district of the Third Ward to be there, but she was unavailable so I met with the two commissioners and the other deputy commissioner. I have yet to get an answer to my question, which is if the Board of Elections is bound to provide a candidate with a list of all of the registered voters in his or her ward. The commissioners and deputy commissioner were as tight lipped as lawyers when I asked them this question. They did tell me they provide any candidate with any list they ask for, but I did not ask for any list, including the list I received. When I ran unsuccessfully for mayor two years ago I did not ask for a list of any kind, but I was provided with a list of every registered voter in the city of Little Falls. As when I ran for mayor, I thought the list I was given was the list of all my potential voters. Before I left the commissioners advised me that I should talk to a lawyer. I told them I don’t consort with lawyers.”
Democratic Board of Elections Commissioner Audrey Dunning said in an email Friday the commissioners did speak to Lonis when he came to the Board of Elections after the election. “He informed us that he believed he received an incomplete list of voters from someone in this office when he picked up his petition packet, which would have been in June or July. As both commissioners stated to Mr. Lonis, if he was given an incomplete list, it was surely unintentional and we did apologize,” Dunning said in the email.
She added, “Yes, it is a function and responsibility of the Board of Elections to provide lists of registered voters to any candidate, or any person, who makes a request for a list.”
Lonis, who ran as an independent candidate and has had political aspirations since posing for a photo with his family as a four-year-old boy on the steps of the nation’s Capitol, said Thursday afternoon he has since spoken to a lawyer and may pursue legal action.
“I spoke to a lawyer friend and I spoke to one of the Herkimer County legislators, and they basically told me I would have a better chance of meeting God than putting everyone through the expense of having another election. But I gave up the dream of meeting God when I decided to get involved in politics, and I am considering taking action. I may do this if for no other reason than to stop this from happening to someone else, and because I truly believe this election was flawed,” he said.
Page 3 of 3 - Lonis also said he plans to speak to the Common Council about the election results at their meeting in December, and that he will not let the events of this past election deter him from running for political office again in two years.
“If anything this will make me stronger,” he said. “I am not going to let this beat me down, because I’ve wanted to be involved in politics practically my entire life. I plan on running for mayor in two years, and if I am unsuccessful I plan to do what Joe Vogt did and run for dog catcher two years after that. I will start at the bottom if I have to.”
Dunning said in her email Friday the official results from the Nov. 5 election should be available in a few days, when the re-canvass is complete.