May 31, 2000
The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue advisory opinions.
The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the information presented in your
I have received your letter, which reached this office on May 1, as well as the
materials attached to it.
You indicated that you were an unsuccessful candidate in a village election and that
you want to "see the paper roll to check on the votes [you] did get." Your request to do so,
however, was refused. Based on my understanding of the Election Law, which was
confirmed by an attorney for the State Board of Elections, there is no general right of public
access to the kind of record in which you are interested.
In this regard, although the Freedom of Information Law provides broad rights of
access, the first ground for denial, §87(2)(a), would, in my view, be pertinent in the context
of your inquiry. That provision pertains to records that "are specifically exempted from
disclosure by state or federal statute." One such statute is §9-124 of the Election Law, which
states in subdivision (1) that:
"After the returns of the canvass are made out and signed, the
inspectors shall enclosed the protested, void and wholly blank
ballots and the ballots cast in affidavit envelopes in a separate
sealed envelope or envelopes and endorse thereon a certificate
signed by each of them stating the number of the district and
the number of ballots contained in such envelope or envelopes.
The inspectors shall then tie up and seal the other voted ballots
and return them to the ballot box which contained them and
securely lock and seal the box, except that at elections in which
voting machines are used, absentee and military, special
federal, special presidential and emergency ballots and stubs, if
any, shall be sealed in the envelope or envelopes provided
Based on the foregoing, I believe that the records of your interest must be sealed and,
therefore, are exempt from disclosure for purposes of the Freedom of Information Law.
I hope that the preceding remarks serve to enhance your understanding of the matter
and that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Delores E. Bogart