Reform Dems Attack ‘Lie’ That Wasn’t

Elections board cracks case of missing write-in
David Lys and David Gruber, shown at a debate last week, square off in today’s Democratic Party primary election. Durell Godfrey

Days before today’s Democratic primary to determine the party’s candidate for a seat on the East Hampton Town Board, the East Hampton Reform Dem­ocrats and their town board candidate, David Gruber, accused David Lys, the East Hampton Democratic Committee’s nominee, of lying about his write-in vote for president in the 2016 election. Mr. Lys stood by his statement, and information from the Suffolk County Board of Elections backs him up. 

In an editor’s note on a letter in the Aug. 30 issue of The Star, Mr. Lys said he had cast a write-in vote for his father, Hakim Lys, in 2016, and had not voted for Donald Trump. An editorial in last week’s paper repeated that statement, calling Reform Democrats’ assertions to the contrary false. 

Reform Democrats cried foul, and on Monday morning sent out an email bearing the headline “David Lys Misleads East Hampton Star About His Presidential Vote in 2016.” It went on to state that “The official Suffolk County Board of Elections tally for the 2016 Presidential Election shows that NO ONE voted for Hakim Lys, David Lys’s father, in all Suffolk County.” The assertion was also disseminated on social media. 

A copy of the final results for the Nov. 8, 2016, general election was included. Below the Republican, Democratic, and third-party candidates’ names and the number of votes each received are the names and vote tallies for 12 write-in candidates. Hakim Lys is not among them.

According to the board of elections, however, the list presented by the Reform Democrats was not proof that no one wrote in Hakim Lys’s name. Rather, an official at the board of elections explained on Monday that those listed on the final-results document had probably notified the board of elections of their write-in candidacy. “If you notify us, you get your name printed,” said the official, who did not want to be named. As an example, she said that Mickey Mouse, a perennial write-in candidate, is not listed in the 2016 results. 

Votes for such candidates “would be considered a scattering,” said another official, who also asked not to be named. That official agreed to speak to the commissioner and endeavor to provide the names of those grouped under the “scattering” umbrella.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, Mr. Gruber had asked the board of elections for a printout of all people who received write-in votes in the 2016 presidential election. On Monday, he said that an official there first read the names of write-in candidates receiving votes to him over the telephone. “I said, ‘Okay, thank you, that gives me the information I need,’ because I did not hear Hakim in the list. Then I said, ‘Please, I need you to send me a document that says this, because nobody is going to take my word for it.’ They did.” 

The board of elections’ final-results list, which the Reform Democrats offered as proof that Ms. Lys was lying, lists 4,087 scattering votes countywide.

In an email on Tuesday morning, Cate Rogers, chairwoman of the East Hampton Democratic Committee, wrote that she, too, had called the board of elections and was informed that “the only names that you see on that report as write-ins are official write-in candidates. Official means that the board of elections received a letter from the state stating that the candidate is a recognized candidate for write-in. All other names: Mickey Mouse, Barack Obama, David Lys’s dad, Hakim Lys, and any other random name are reported in the ‘Scatterings’ column. In Suffolk County there were thousands of ‘Scatterings’ as you can see,” she said. A 2016 election report for East Hampton Town lists 85 votes under the “Scattering” column.

“My write-in would be part of that scattering on there,” Mr. Lys said Tuesday. He called the Reform Democrats’ information a “half-truth” and said he is “disappointed by their actions.”

“They are trying to call me a liar. I am not,” Mr. Lys said.

“This attempt to say that David Lys is a liar is so blatant and egregious and if the truth still matters in our world then this should be exposed,” Ms. Rogers said.

  Also on the ballot in today’s Democratic primary election are candidates for the party’s committee in each of the 19 election districts. Registered Democrats will also choose a candidate for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. 

Polls, which are the same as for the general election, will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. A list of polling places can be found in last week’s Star and online at easthamptonstar.com.