A couple of disputed ballots, a few lawsuits, and several months of deliberation are enough to sour even someone with the most ambitious political aspirations and cause him/her to turn away from the whole electoral process.
For Village Trustee Erin Malloy, in what may be considered the closest mayoral election in Irvington history, it was a victory in an election she feels "she won, but didn’t."
Controversy is by no means a stranger to politics, especially the electoral process. One would think that with local politics, especially, one would be free from the dilemmas of tricky Floridian ballots or defining the term "sexual relations." Yet, Irvington’s 2005 mayoral election not only swept local villages into a sea of deliberation but managed to garner national media attention in an election that redefined political controversy.
Before all the hoopla, Erin Malloy was a strong advocate for the homeless in New York City. When she moved up to Irvington, Malloy joined the League of Women Voters where one of her first assignments was to attend the Irvington Village Board meetings. She continued to work with the League of Women Voters and eventually rose to the rank of president of the Westchester County group. While maintaining a political presence in Irvington without actually holding a government title, Malloy was approached to run for trustee. The current Mayor, Dennis Flood, had never been challenged. Although approached to run for trustee, Malloy felt that "people should be given a choice." "The League taught me the value of a contested election," she said. In 2005, Erin Malloy’s name would be found on the mayoral ballot.
If ever the value of a single vote was demonstrated, it was epitomized in that election. At one point, Flood was declared the winner. At another point, Malloy was heralded as the victor. No one could have foreseen the months that lay ahead that would be filled with recounts, unopened ballots, lawsuits, and the luck of the draw.
The two unopened ballots became a huge factor in the fate of both candidates. One went to Flood, creating a dead-even tie. The second belonged to Susan Morton, a recognized advocate of Erin Malloy. Susan Morton, whose vote would have sealed victory for Malloy, was, after much debate, considered fraudulent in a lawsuit filed by Flood, due to a misunderstanding of the exact name she was registered to vote under. Thinking it was just a misunderstanding, Morton didn’t file any claims with an attorney and therefore her vote was dismissed. "The real injustice was throwing [Morton’s] vote out, not me losing the election," said Malloy. However, the tie still stood.
The power of the dollar may not have been the determining factor in this election but the power of the quarter would. In October 2005, it was finally decided that a quarter would be drawn from a bag, declaring the winner. The four quarters bearing the Statue of Liberty were assigned to Flood; the four bearing the American bald eagle represented Malloy. "The eagle did not soar that day," she said. Flood was declared the winner.
After that long, drawn-out process in which Malloy said there was "a lot of real, serious negativity," she was down but not out. A mere three months later Malloy was asked again to run for trustee. In 2006, she won an election for a trustee position along with running mate, Pat Ryan.
As a trustee, when asked what she feels the major issues are in Irvington she said, "water, open space, and taxes." "Taxes are an enormous issue, not just in Irvington, but in all of Westchester," said Malloy. One issue more specific to Irvington concerns drainage and water run-off. With the recent development of Irvington High School, the project has been faulted by many for causing an increase in run-off. Riverview Road residents in particular have noticed that there has been an increase in run-off ever since the development began. Though Malloy doesn’t affirm that the new development and the increased run-off have a cause-and-effect relationship, she does note that regardless, the run-off is a problem. "The problem is getting the water down to the river in an efficient and environmentally safe way," she noted. As a trustee she has been working towards such issues as drainage and taxes, but also stresses the importance of community participation in local government. "One of the great things about televised [Board] meetings is to be able to see how things are run and assess the jobs people are doing," said Malloy. She is quick to praise the current administration on an excellent job, with such recent capital projects as the library and open space, but adds that the recent spurt of public works comes at a price. "We have to be more careful about additional debts," she said.
Erin Malloy continues to work hard as a trustee but the question lingers: "Will she run for mayor again?" "It can be a lot," she said with a smile. Only time will tell.