The election of Jeremy J. Zellner as chairman of the Erie County Democratic Party is headed for a court challenge.
An attorney for defeated candidate Frank C. Max Jr. said he will file motions in either state or federal court this week to nullify the results of the reorganizational meeting held Saturday in the Hearthstone Manor, Depew.
And Max made it clear late Monday that he has not ended his efforts to succeed Leonard R. Lenihan as chairman.
"I shook hands with Jeremy, but I never conceded," Max said. "Somebody is going to have to watch what's going on."
Attorney Peter A. Reese, meanwhile, contends that the vote was unfairly weighted toward Zellner after improper redistricting in the Town of Amherst engineered by Democratic Elections Commissioner Dennis E. Ward, the town's former Democratic chairman.
"The elections commissioner used an arcane provision of election law to redistrict in Amherst to his advantage," Reese said Monday.
Zellner was elected by a wide margin, with about 57 percent of the vote to Max's 43 percent.
Many observers wonder whether any lawsuit would produce enough votes for Max to overcome that deficit, even while Reese said he seeks a "mulligan" meeting to conduct the vote again.
"While 'one man, one vote' may not apply to internal party matters, here the state is telling us how we must vote," he said in explaining his interpretation of the law. "The only fair way to conduct this election is uniformly according to party enrollment."
West Seneca Chairman Daniel S. McParlane, a Max supporter, pointed out that Max received more actual votes than Zellner when weighted ballots were not considered. Though Reese said he was satisfied with the procedural matters guiding Saturday's vote, McParlane is not.
"One of the ballot boxes was deemed 'tainted' in the counting room . after a volunteer was seen stuffing multiple ballots in the box; a bigger issue and possibly the most striking is the way committee people voted," he said.
At Max's request, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie A. Miner, co-chairwoman of the State Democratic Committee, was the observer for the election. Rodney S. Capel, executive director of the state committee, did not return a call seeking reaction from Miner.
Ward, meanwhile, said he is prepared to meet any legal challenge coming his way. He also wondered why Reese or any other Democrat did not run candidates in the new districts to exert influence politically.
"On the day of petitions, they had every right to run whomever they wanted," Ward said. "Regardless of whether anyone feels there was undue movement of these districts, everyone started out on the same footing, and nothing was done after the fact. This is just sour grapes."
The commissioner, who also was re-elected to his post in Saturday's meeting, explained that voting by party committee members is usually guided by the weighted vote, determined by the last gubernatorial election. But reapportionment and a reduction of Erie County election districts from 994 to 887 to meet budgetary constraints resulted in some new districts based on Democratic enrollment.
Ward said the changes did cause substantial differences, pointing out that Amherst went from 14 percent of the weighted vote in the chairman election to 15.5 percent after redistricting. Significantly, he said, Buffalo went from 35 percent of the weighted vote to 39.5 percent.
He also contended that because of the secret ballot guiding Saturday's vote, it should not be assumed that all committee members voted according to the dictates of town or zone chairmen.
"It's not automatic," Ward said, "that Frank Max got all of Cheektowaga [where he is party chairman] or that Jeremy Zellner got all of Amherst."