Vote For Nobody: NY Village Holds Election with No Candidates

[Image via vote4nobody]

It’s rare, but not unprecedented, to see stories where a jurisdiction holds an election where no one votes … but one New York village yesterday ran a mayoral election with no candidates on the ballot. Syracuse.com has more:

Apparently, nobody wants to be mayor in the village of Poland, a small community down the Thruway in Herkimer County.

That’s not stopping the village from holding a mayoral election today – even though there are no candidates on the ballot for mayor.

No one appears to want the job, said Brandie Guarno, Poland’s village clerk. Residents are voting today from noon to 9 p.m., and can write in candidates. Whoever gets the most write-in votes will be mayor unless that person doesn’t want the job, she said.

It appears to be unusual in New York state for a community to hold an election for a position in which there are no candidates.

Onondaga County Board of Elections Commissioner Michele Sardo said she’s never heard of a situation like that occurring in Onondaga County.

“It sounds very rare,” she said. “Very weird.”

Guarno said usually someone will step up to run to be mayor of Poland, which has a population of about 540 people. The village is aware of how unusual running an election without a candidate is, she said.

John Conklin, spokesman for the New York State Board of Elections, said the scenario has occurred before in the state in small communities like this but said it is unusual.

One candidate on the ballot is Sean Ryan, who is running unopposed for village trustee. He has made it clear, however, he doesn’t want to be mayor, Guarno said.

Mary Paul, the village ‘s current mayor, doesn’t want to run for re-election, Guarno said.

The job pays $2,500 a year, so what’s stopping people from running? Is there a divisive issue, or some other controversy looming? Guarno says she can’t think of anything.

If the highest vote-getting write-in candidate doesn’t want the job, the village’s two trustees will have to appoint someone – and then conduct another mayoral election next year, the clerk said.

Ultimately, it was write-in votes (with an assist from coverage of the empty ballot) that decided the race, reports WKTV:

“I don’t think a lot of people are aware of village elections, especially new people coming into the village,” Guarno said. “Since this story became popular, I’ve had several phone calls of people saying ‘I want to be mayor, what do I have to do?’ and I’m like ‘I wish you would have said that a month ago.'”

The village did see a bigger voter turn out than expected.

Lance Bennett, a former mayor for the village of Poland won by 34 write-in votes, he has up to 30 days to accept or decline the position.

Admittedly, this story properly classifies more as curiosity than crisis, but it speaks to the challenges localities face both with the number of elections they are required to run and alerting residents about voting (and candidate) opportunities. Poland had a happy ending this time, but it’s a helpful reminder that outreach is key for election officials no matter how small the item on the ballot. Stay tuned …

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