As America’s future hung in the balance on Nov. 3, Rivertowns mayors and local elected officials urged the public to be patience and keep the peace no matter how long it took to count all the ballots.

That was the message at a press conference held outside Greenburgh Town Hall on Election Day by Protect the Results Rivertowns. The organization is part of a nonpartisan coalition, with more than 500 chapters, dedicated to assuring a full and fair count of all votes, including mail-in ballots, in the presidential election. 

Stuart Hackel of Hastings, a self-described Independent who is a member of Protect the Results Rivertowns, explained, “We want people to stay calm and let the votes be counted. If it takes a while that’s OK. There’s never been a presidential vote where the real totals were available right away.” Hackel said the message coming from President Donald Trump that mail-in votes were not legitimate was wrong: “There’s zero proof that there’s voter fraud.” 

The mayors of Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, Elmsford, Hastings, Irvington, Sleepy Hollow, and Tarrytown signed onto a joint statement, along with Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner. At the press event, Mayor Niki Armacost of Hastings took turns with Ardsley Mayor Nancy Kaboolian reading the statement, which stressed that “New York’s election laws include provisions for early voting and mail-in ballots and their counting. Each of these votes is just as legitimate as a vote cast on Nov. 3.” The statement noted that there had been “unprecedented activity” in voting options such as mail-in ballots. “These votes may not be tabulated by Election Day,” it read. “Around the nation, we may also see recounts, audits, and other legal steps taken to reach an accurate result. The process can be long and painstaking, but let’s remain calm and patient as all votes legally cast are fairly counted to reach a true outcome. That is how our democracy works.”

The statement also condemned anyone who created a crisis and inflamed partisan tensions by using rhetoric that claimed these votes should not be counted.

An estimated 154,000 Westchester voters participated in early voting from Oct. 24 to Nov. 1, at 17 polling locations throughout the county, according to Westchester County Democratic Chair Suzanne Berger of Dobbs Ferry, one of the attendees. For example, Town of Greenburgh Clerk Judith Beville said that over 10,000 Westchester residents voted at Greenburgh Town Hall. Dobbs Ferry Village Hall also hosted early voting.

Before the mayors read their statement, Armacost reflected on the activity she had witnessed at the polls since early voting began last month. “It’s just incredibly gratifying to see how many people made the effort to come out this year,” she said, calling the level of citizen participation “completely inspiring and thrilling.” She said that the mayors’ roles would be to keep people “calm, focused, and centered... that’s our job as leaders.”

Kaboolian said the “keep calm” directive from the mayors was “a really good message to send out... it’s a democratic process and we need to let it take its course.” She said she had sent out a similar message to Ardsley residents on the eve of Election Day. “I think that our constituents want to make sure the votes they stood in line for, the votes they mailed in, are all counted.” 

County Legislator MaryJane Shimsky of Dobbs Ferry thanked the mayors for “standing up for America.”

“No state certifies its election results on Election Day,” Shimsky stated. “I suspect that has not taken place in the history of our country. But there are people on the side of not counting the vote. Authoritarianism and fascism can happen anywhere, where the right kind of demagogue can destroy democracy.” 

Indeed, by the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 4, before the election’s outcome could be tabulated, Trump had declared himself the winner and promised that if he was not declared the victor, he would challenge the legitimacy of mail-in ballots “in the Supreme Court.” But at the press conference, Hackel promised, “If [Trump] gets ‘squirrelly’ about not counting the votes, and declaring himself president,” all the chapters of his coalition would stage protests around the country until all the votes were counted.

Feiner closed the event on a hopeful note: “In any democracy, there are winners and losers. Everybody, no matter what side they’re on, they have to accept the results. The losers will become winners, because they will have shown that democracy is more important than winning.” 

CORRECTION: The version of this story published in the Nov. 6 issue of the Enterprise misidentified Stuart Hackel as a resident of Hastings and as the head of Protect the Results Rivertowns.

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