Hempstead school officials will need to hold a new election for a highly-contested school board seat after amid an investigation into allegations of voter fraud in a May school board election, New York State Education Commissioner John B. King ruled Thursday.
Last month, King ordered longtime board member Betty Cross to step down from her post after community activists filed an appeal claiming election fraud and absentee ballot abuse impacted the May 20 election. Cross’ opponent, Maribel Touré, had claimed that there was “fraudulent and improper activity” during the election, including “voter intimidation and voter fraud,” according to documents filed with the state. Cross’ lawyers said Touré had failed to establish that there were any improprieties.
In a decision rendered Thursday, King said there were irregularities found in the absentee balloting process. As part of his ruling, the election results have annulled. He also ordered a special election to fill the open post and told the district they must cooperate with “monitors” he will be sending to oversee the new election.
“The Education Commissioner’s decision is a victory for the voters and the children of the Hempstead School District,” Touré’s lawyer, Frederick Brewington said. “This was not a decision which is common for the Commissioner, but was necessary due to the extreme level of abuses proven by the appeal.”
Hempstead School District spokesman Todd Shapiro said the school district will comply with the decision and that the special election was based on a decision after a “dispute on both sides.” He said the district will announce next week when the new election will take place.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice is also investigating allegations stemming from the election. Investigators from her office took possession of the election materials in May. A spokesman for Rice said Friday that the investigation was “still active and ongoing.”