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Monroe County Board of Elections Commissioner

David Andretta / CITY

Natalie Sheppard is leaving the Rochester Board of Education to join the Monroe County Board of Elections.

Board President Van White said Sheppard informed the board of her decision on Thursday. She joins the Board of Elections as a deputy to new Democratic Commissioner Jackie Ortiz. White expects a resignation letter from Sheppard sometime Friday.

Sheppard’s resignation leaves an opening on the school board that White said needs to be filled in about a month.

cityofrochester.gov

The splintered Democratic Caucus of the Monroe County Legislature appointed City Councilmember Jackie Ortiz to serve as Democratic elections commissioner, effective immediately.

A group of nine Democrats, led by Legislator Yversha Roman, convened at 8 a.m. Thursday to make the appointment. The meeting was swift with no debate, other than a brief remark from Legislator John Baynes following the vote.

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A state judge on Friday said there was nothing precluding the Monroe County Legislature from installing a new Democratic county elections commissioner now — upending an argument used by legislative leaders to delay the confirmation of Jackie Ortiz earlier in the week.

Legislators, spurred by a small faction of Democrats, on Tuesday put off voting on a long-awaited measure to confirm the appointment of Ortiz, whom members of the county Democratic Committee last month overwhelmingly elected to be the next elections commissioner.

CITY/File photo

Monroe County legislators on Tuesday put off voting on a long-awaited measure to confirm the appointment of a county Democratic elections commissioner at the request of the party's leadership.

Assistant Minority Leader Ernest Flagler-Mitchell, a Democrat representing northeast and northwest portions of Rochester, asked that the measure to appoint Jackie Ortiz as the elections commissioner be pulled pending the outcome of litigation regarding the position. 

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Now that Rochester City Councilmember Jackie Ortiz has been chosen by Democratic Party leaders to be their next Board of Elections commissioner, one of the biggest critics of the process said it may be time to make peace. 

Monroe County Minority Leader Vince Felder said Monday that what happens next is up to county legislators, who will vote on the position next month. Felder said these appointments are typically made without much of a fight. 

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Acting Democratic Monroe County Elections Commissioner LaShana Boose says she is not going to to fill the position on a full-time basis.

A statement released by Boose Tuesday evening said, “Now more than ever, I feel that it is imperative that Black and Brown people work together to lift each other up. That’s why after learning that another woman of color was seeking to be our elections commissioner, I have decided that I want to support Ms. Ortiz and use my experience in service of her and the board’s success.”

A state judge on Friday gave a faction of the Monroe County Democratic Committee until Monday to devise a plan to have the committee elect a county elections commissioner -- effectively halting a process that would have had Democratic county legislators appoint the new commissioner.

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A state judge will hear arguments Friday in a lawsuit intended to stop Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature from appointing a new county elections commissioner for their party.

In a peculiar twist, the judge will also hear arguments on a cross-claim filed Wednesday by three legislators.

The legislators, Rachel Barnhart, Linda Hasman, and Yversha Roman filed the cross-claim against Democratic Minority Leader Vince Felder and Monroe County Democratic Committee Chair Brittaney Wells.

Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature announced Friday that they will choose the next Democratic county elections commissioner, a stark departure from precedent spurred by infighting within the county Democratic Party.

The Monroe County Board of Elections, like other elections boards in New York, is overseen by a pair of co-commissioners, a Republican and a Democrat.

James Brown / WXXI News

Last month, state elections officials canceled the Democratic presidential primary, citing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres ruled that the primary must happen on June 23. 

It's the latest shift in an unusual election season, leaving Board of Elections officials like LaShana Boose scrambling to adapt.

With a little over a month before early voting starts, Boose said the board was already planning to send out absentee ballot applications to all registered voters as a result of an executive order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

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