After initially addressing a procedural issue concerning the nature of a reply to the school district's answer to Plaintiff's petition and explaining "A reply is not meant to buttress allegations in the petition or to belatedly add assertions that should have been in the petition," the Commissioner turned to the merits of the appeal submitted by the Petitioner with respect to issues involving:
1. The Governor's suspension of Education Law §§2002 and 2022 under color of the ongoing state of emergency caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic;
2. §§2018 and 2608 of the Education Law to the extent necessary “to eliminate any minimum threshold of signatures required” for the nominating petition of a candidate seeking election to a board of education;"
3. Voting using absentee ballots and the procedures to be followed related to declaring a ballot invalid and other any irregularities actually affecting "the outcome of the election or were so pervasive that they vitiated the electoral process;"
4. Recounting ballots in school district elections; and
5. Attacks on the integrity of the tallies and the returns of the inspectors of election, such as a showing of fraud or improper conduct.**
Observing that "It is well settled that mere speculation as to the possible existence of irregularities provides an insufficient basis on which to annul election results," and citing various earlier Decisions of the Commissioner of Education addressing this point, the Commissioner found that Petitioner "failed to carry her burden of proof to annul the election results or compel a recount" and, after explaining the reasons in support of such findings, the Commissioner dismissed the Petitioner's appeal.
In the words of the Commissioner, "Petitioner has failed to meet her burden of proof to establish that any irregularities affected the outcome of the election. Therefore, there is no basis upon which to order a recount or invalidate the results of the election" and dismissed Petitioner's appeal.
*Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision No. 17,947.
** To the extent the Commissioner did not specifically address an issue raised by Petitioner in her appeal, the Commissioner said that she found such issue "to be without merit."