Cumulative voting is here to stay, and Port Chester taxpayers are on the hook for thousands of dollars in attorney fees from the ill-fated effort to reverse the voting rights case. The decision marks the end of a divisive saga that included political battles, philosophical differences and lots of emotional feedback from people who live in the village.
In February, Port Chester’s Republican trustees voted to fight the legally well-armed Department of Justice and appeal the voting rights case. In addition to hiring two local attorneys, trustees hired high-powered lawyer Michael Carvin at a cost of $225,000. Carvin is the brother of Joseph Carvin, Rye Town’s Republican supervisor.
In April, a federal judge threw a bucket of cold water on the appeal effort with a written decision that the village “may not appeal a consent decree.” Still, Republican trustees and their lawyers pressed on, saying they had faith in Carvin and other attorneys, who said Port Chester had favorable odds in the case. That optimism has been dashed with a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals, which dismissed Port Chester’s appeal this week.
… One of the central arguments in favor of an appeal was to preserve “continuity” in government. Because elections were suspended before cumulative voting was imposed on the village, all six current trustees were elected at the same time, in June of last year. That means all six incumbents could be potentially voted out at once, producing an entirely new board. Trustee John Branca was among those who said the possibility of a “rookie board” was a motivating factor in voting for an appeal.
Now that legal action is off the table, political leaders in Port Chester say they’ll turn their efforts toward creating staggered trustee elections, so all six seats aren’t up at once.